Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more IMPORTANT PICTURES BY THOMAS BAINES FROM THE COLLECTION OF CHARLES JOHN ANDERSSON (1827-1867)The following two pictures from the distinguished collection of Baines's host in South-West Africa, the Anglo-Swedish explorer and trader Charles John Andersson, were painted in Otjimbingwe and Walvis Bay in the months immediately following Baines and Chapman's return from their aborted trans-African journey. The first, Brilliant Meteor on the Zambezi River, is from Baines's first series of pictures of the Victoria Falls and environs, reached with Chapman in July 1862. Thanks to Andersson's hospitality, Baines was able to settle down and work up his Victoria Falls sketches into pictures at Otjimbingwe in the immediate aftermath of the expedition. This striking image is one of Baines's most iconic, describing the Victorian encounter with Africa, and notable for being engraved for both Chapman and Baines's African narratives. The second, of the missionary Hahn addressing the Damara commando is another tour de force, full of closely observed detail and recording an event in which Baines and Andersson played central roles. Baines and Chapman had returned from the Victoria Falls to a warring South-West in August 1863: ‘The nearer the expedition drew to the Swakop the more menacing grew the rumours of war between the Namaqua Hottentots and the subject Damara tribes. … the whole country was in turmoil, so that shortly after leaving Gobabis, the travellers found it advisable to make a circuit to the south. Thus they came to Otjimbengue by way of Rehoboth. They were hospitably entertained by the Anderssons, always the help and stay for those in need. Baines sent off his journal, sketches and what the insects had spared of his zoological and botanical collections to England through Logier, and then, being penniless, gratefully accepted Andersson’s offer of hospitality and a room to paint in. While Chapman tried to organize a second expedition, the artist worked at his canvases that he might be able to join him, and some of his finest pictures, illustrating the late journey, belong to this period. … In December he was busy upon a series of pictures of the Falls, to be published after the manner of Scenery and Events. He also played his part in trying to bring the warring races together, … ‘ (J.P.R. Wallis, Thomas Baines, His life and explorations in South Africa, Rhodesia and Australia 1820-1875, Cape Town and Rotterdam, 1976, pp.148-9). Baines would stay with Andersson for over a year, active in the garrison life of Otjimbingwe during the months of tribal warfare, at the same time as painting current events (his most important picture from this period his ‘Damaraland Meeting, 6 June 1862’, lot 63), working up his Victoria Falls paintings, and providing illustrations for Andersson’s book on birds, as Andersson later recalled: ‘ … I must not omit to mention that Mr. Thomas Baines, the artist, was staying with me at this period, for the purpose of illustrating certain birds, intended for a work on Natural History that I was then preparing for the press. This gentleman was the companion of Livingstone for a time, and subsequently with Mr. James Chapman. By the published narrative of the latter, the reader is probably aware that they had to some extent failed in their attempt at exploring the famous Zambezi river; but, as a set-off, they had visited the glorious and wonderful “Victoria Falls,” an event enough to satisfy any ordinary ambition. Mr. Baines kindly presented me and my wife with one of his pictures, representing one of the most charming views of these stupendous Falls – said to far exceed in grandeur and general interest those of Niagara! And I secured a few more at a moderate price. I also induced my friend to paint a picture on the same subject for the King of Sweden … His Majesty gratefully accepted the gift … and the picture now adorns the chambers of the Royal Palace at Stockholm … ‘ (C.J. Andersson, Notes of Travel in South Africa, London, 1875, pp.91-2)Both this and the following lot were bought by Andersson and were part of a suite of five pictures by Baines which all descended in the family, hanging together among hunting trophies, spears and guns in the hall, upper gallery, drawing room and dining room at Dolobran, the grand Parktown mansion built by J.A. Cope Christie for Charles John Andersson’s son, Sir Llewellyn Andersson, in 1906. THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Thomas Baines (1820-1875)

Searching for Hippopotami on an island in the Zambezi about two miles above the Falls, young palms before the first leaves are shed – and brilliant Meteor (Brilliant Meteor on the Zambezi River, 1864)

Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
Searching for Hippopotami on an island in the Zambezi about two miles above the Falls, young palms before the first leaves are shed – and brilliant Meteor (Brilliant Meteor on the Zambezi River, 1864)
indistinctly signed and dated ‘T BAINES / APRIL 8 1864’ (lower right) and further signed, inscribed with title and dated ‘Searching for Hippopotami on an island / in the Zambezi about two miles above the Falls / young palms before the first leaves / are shed – and brilliant Meteor / sketched August 1862 / T Baines / Walvisch Bay / april 8 1864’ on the reverse
oil on canvas
18 x 26in. (45.7 x 66cm.)
Charles John Andersson (1827-1867) and thence by descent to the present owner.
C.J. Andersson, Notes of Travel in South Africa, London, 1875, p.92.
M. Stevenson (ed.), Thomas Baines: An Artist in the Service of Science in Southern Africa, (Christie's) London, 1999, p.134, illustrated in colour pl. 9.4.
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Post lot text
Baines copied the image for one of the handcoloured lantern slides of his Zambezi expedition pictures, used for his illustrated lectures, one example of the slide (titled by Baines ‘Young palm trees and meteor’) from a set sent to his friend the Grahamstown banker Robert White was included in the Quentin Keynes sale at Christie’s, London, 7 April 2004, lot 446.
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Lot Essay

This cosmically lit (by meteor- and moonlight) nocturne on the Zambezi just above the Falls is one Thomas Baines's most remarkable African pictures. It is one of the first of Baines's great suite of paintings of the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi delta painted from his sketches made at the Falls in July-August 1862. Baines had embarked on the Chapman expedition with a view to producing a great series of paintings of the Falls, seen by just half a dozen Europeans before him, and never before depicted and displayed to the Victorian world. When he returned to the Cape these Falls and Zambezi views were the stars of his illustrated lectures, and these would be the key attraction of his hastily published narrative Explorations in South-West Africa (1864) and his portfolio of views, Victoria Falls (1865). It would be these subjects too that drew attention when Baines's work was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London in 1869.

Baines and Chapman hunted hippopotami half a mile above the falls with the old boatman, 'Zanjueelah', on 13 August 1862, and ended the day entering 'into a kind of conditional arrangement to be taken tomorrow to an island where the hippopotami are likely to come ashore at night.' (T. Baines, Explorations in South-West Africa, London, 1864, p.521) -- such an excursion the subject of this night scene, with Baines or Chapman following Zanjueelah carrying his 'formidable spear'. The nocturnal subject (which sees Baines attending to both botany and astronomy) is lit by the incandescent meteor and the moon, probably the astronomical phenomena seen by Baines earlier in the year, as they so closely follow Baines's description of the meteor seen plunging towards the horizon on 13 January 1862. The picture may then be a conflation of two events in January and August 1862.

‘As an astronomer, whose observations could be depended upon, the estimable Sir Thomas Maclear, of the Cape Observatory, considered him second only to Livingstone. ‘ (from Henry Hall’s ‘Memoir of the late Thomas Baines Esq., F.R.G.S.’ published in T. Baines, The Gold Regions …, London and Port Elizabeth, 1877, p.xvi).

Baines describes seeing meteors twice in his Explorations in South-West Africa, on 20 November 1861 en route to the Victoria Falls: ‘At night I observed Achernar, but having been occupied with other work, had not guessed the time sufficiently near to catch the star before passing the meridian. While thus engaged I saw a meteor shoot from the low mist on the southern horizon, and, slightly arching in its flight, rise towards the zenith, its head glowing with an intense liquid heat, as if of molten iron, in two or three successive drops, and leaving a train of sparks behind it, gradually fading from a white heat to yellow and dull red. It seemed as bright as a signal-rocket discharged at half a mile distance, and certainly much brighter than the planet that had just set.' (T. Baines, op. cit., p.233)

and later on 13 January 1862: ‘I was working beside a good ordinary lamp, and turning to the west I saw, notwithstanding the brightness of the moon, a meteor of unusual size and brilliancy slowly descending like a globe of glowing metal towards the horizon. All the ordinary ideas of shooting-stars, rockets, ., would be in fault in describing this. It seemed to me to be a body of considerable size, the slow apparent motion of which was due to its immense distance from the eye, and to its superior light spreading an additional glow over a large portion of the space already illuminated by the moon.’ (ibid., p.317)

There are three works on paper by Baines depicting meteors or fireballs and comets: the watercolour of a ‘Meteor at Mahalaapie’ near Lake Ngami (which clearly illustrates the meteor seen on 20 November 1861), from the Quentin Keynes Collection, sold Christie’s 7 April 2004, lot 447 (illustrated above), the undated watercolour in the collection of the Royal Geographical Society ‘Meteor and Comet – Damara carrying fire horn’ (RGSX229/0221948), and the watercolour in the William Fehr Collection, ‘Young palm on an island in the Zambezi above the Falls – and Meteor’. The latter, dated March 1865, seems to show the same young palm and meteor as the present picture. The William Fehr drawing would then, unusually, postdate the subject first 'sketched August 1862' (as Baines records on the reverse of the present picture).

For a discussion of Baines’s interest in and study of astronomy, his skilled use of stellar observations to determine position, and his meteor pictures, including the present picture, see J. Stone, ‘The cartography of Thomas Baines’ and B. Warner, 'Thomas Baines and Astronomy' in the exhibition catalogue Thomas Baines: An Artist in the Service of Science in Southern Africa, (Christie’s) London, 1999, pp.118-35.

For a survey of Baines's botanical work (the palms here as important a component as the human and cosmic action, as iterated in the title here, and in the plate in Baines's The Gold Regions ...), see M. Arnold, 'Thomas Baines and southern African flora ...' in the same catalogue, pp.70-89. The artist sent botanical drawings and specimens via his friend Frederick Logier in Cape Town to the Hookers at Kew and had already impressed the botanist John Kirk on Livingstone's Zambezi expedition: 'Mr Baines has given actual views, and has so scrupulously adhered to nature, that anyone familiar with the vegetation may name the very plants represented in his paintings. In the distant views of palm-clad islands a botanist may recognise the feature which at once distinguishes the variety of Hyphaene palm-tree, growing here, from all other existing between the central district and the east coast.' (Kirk quoted in M. Arnold, op. cit., p.71)


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