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Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
Thomas Baines (1820-1875)

The rapids of the Victoria Falls, Zambezi River

Thomas Baines (1820-1875)
The rapids of the Victoria Falls, Zambezi River
signed and dated 'T. BAINES / APRIL / 1864' (lower right), signed, inscribed and dated 'THE RAPIDS OF THE VICTORIA FALLS ZAMBEZI RIVER. SKETCHED FROM THE EASTERN SHORE 200 OR 300 YARDS ABOVE THE CHASM BETWEEN AUGUST 3rd AND 5th 1862. SHOWING THE BALANCED ROAD, THE OUTLET AND PART OF GARDEN ISLAND WITH ZANGUELLAH'S CANOE AT HIS USUAL LANDING PLACE. / PAINTED AT WALVISCH BAY - APRIL 8th 1864. / T. BAINES' on the reverse under the reline (according to a typed label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
18 x 26in. (45.7 x 66cm.)
King's Lynn, King's Lynn Museum, Thomas Baines King's Lynn traveller and pictureman, July-August 1975 (travelling exhibition to Southampton Art Gallery, Sept. 1975 and Fine Art Society, London, Oct. 1975), no.26.

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Lot Essay

Baines and Chapman surveyed the eastern side of the Falls in the first few days of August 1862, navigating the rapids with the help of local boatmen, including the old boatman of the rapids Zanjurella who had ferried Livingstone and Sekeletu to Garden Island in 1855, and was famously portrayed ferrying Baines and Chapman in Baines's picture ('Zanjueelah - boatman of the rapids', National Archives of Zimbabwe), plate 8 of Baines's ten tinted lithographs of the Victoria Falls published in 1865. As noted by Baines in his title, the boatman's canoe (and a boatman with his spear, and Baines's rifle) can all be seen at the landing place, as the artist has ventured out onto the rocks to sketch the scene. Baines also described one of his the visits to the rapids in his narrative: 'Tuesday, August 5th. - I ... again shaped my course for the falls, determined this time to penetrate the dense forest on the southern cliff, and stand face to face with the eastern portion of the cataract, as I had already done with the western. ... The old boatman of the rapids, Zanjueelah, ... led us to his long narrow skiff - the same which took down Dr. Livingstone and Sekeletu in 1855, and the only one, I believe, that goes quite to the falls. He paddles across that Chapman might take his gun as well as I, and we glided swiftly down the river, winding as the current swept round the islands or ran in rapids over the rocks. ... The edge of the fall was now visible, and the sun, beginning to decline, had just imbued the easternmost cloud of spray with the prismatic colours, not in a complete bow, but in an imperceptible segment, so short as to show no visible curve, and so broad as to leave no portion of its height untinted by the delicately brilliant hues. About ninety yards from the edge of the cataract our course was suddenly and skillfully changed, and we shot into smooth water on the eastern side of Garden Island, where, sticking our boat ashore without fastening of any kind, we walked over rocks bare up to the high water-line and through the tangled little forest to Dr. Livingstone's Garden. ... ' (T, Baines, Explorations in South-West Africa, London, 1864, pp.513-18)

Baines stayed with the Swedish explorer Charles John Andersson at Otjimbingwe from August 1863 to October 1864 on his return from the falls. Andersson had given him a room to paint and Baines worked up most of his Victoria Falls pictures here from his field sketches taken on the spot. There were occasional retreats to Walvis Bay (where the present canvas was painted) when Andersson's trading post at Otjimbingwe was under threat from the Namaquas.


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