The King of Loango, late 17th cent.

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Image Reference

D. O. Dapper, Description de l'Afrique . . . Traduite du Flamand (Amsterdam,1686; 1st ed., 1668), p. 331. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

"The king hardly leaves his palace except for solemn holidays , or for some event of great importance, such as receiving ambassadors from foreign princes, to appease conflicts, to hunt a leopard which has ravaged Loango . . . . He also appears on the first day that his own fields are cultivated, and when his vassals bring their tribute and come to pay him homage. They choose for this occasion a large place in the center of the city, where they raise his throne. It is a seat of black and white wickerwork, covered with mats that are embellished with rare objects" (Dapper, p. 330; our translation). In an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, Adam Jones writes "there is virtually no evidence" that Dapper "took much interest in what sort of visual material was to accompany his text," and that it was the publisher, Van Meurs, "who probably did all the engraving himself." With respect to the plates, in particular, Jones concludes: "For those interested in seventeenth-century black Africa rather than in the history of European perceptions, few of the plates showing human beings and artefacts are of any value . . . . [and] originated solely from Van Meurs' imagination" (Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence (History in Africa [1990], vol. 17, pp. 187-190).