African Canoes and European Sailing Vessels, Corisco Island, 1840s-1850s

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This record was last updated on 27 Jun 2017

Image Reference

Drawings of Western Africa (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, MSS 14357, no. 4).

Pencil and crayon. Caption by the artist: “All hands — Boarding the Ship-in response to her signal flag. In search of trade-Corisco, West Africa.” Marginal notes on the right, identifying features in the picture, read from top to bottom: mail steamer, climbing for coconuts, launching canoe, palm tree and fruit, palm nut. In the middle of the left margin, the word “bark” refers to a ship on the horizon. A European, probably an American missionary, is depicted in the lower left. The Board of Foreign Missions of the American Presbyterian Church had established a mission on Corisco Island in June-July 1850; it existed until 1870. Source: Robert Nassau, A History of the Presbytery of Corisco (Trenton, N.J., 1888). This is one of 22 works displayed on this website of West African coastal scenes -- out of a total of 32 held by the Department of Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library. None of the works is dated or signed, and they seem to have been done by at least two different persons (probably American Protestant missionaries or persons otherwise associated with them). The drawings were clearly done in situ in Africa, probably around the mid-19th century. It is unknown how and when they came to the United States, although it was probably not long after they were made. Where they were taken is not known, as is their location over the years. However, in the 1970s or 1980s an art dealer in Philadelphia acquired the drawings (he was vague on the source; based on a brief correspondence with him). He gave them on consignment to a rare book dealer in Massachusetts; the latter, in turn, sold them to the University of Virginia Library in 2008. See also other image references “UVA” on this website.