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PROPERTY FROM A PERSIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Walter Frier
PORTRAIT OF THE PRINCESS OF ZANZIBAR WITH AN AFRICAN ATTENDANT
Estimate
70,00080,000
LOT SOLD. 187,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
200

PROPERTY FROM A PERSIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Walter Frier
PORTRAIT OF THE PRINCESS OF ZANZIBAR WITH AN AFRICAN ATTENDANT
Estimate
70,00080,000
LOT SOLD. 187,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Masters Day Sale

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Walter Frier
BRITISH 1685 - 1761
PORTRAIT OF THE PRINCESS OF ZANZIBAR WITH AN AFRICAN ATTENDANT
inscribed centre left: JOHN HENDERSON of FORDELL/Travelling in his youth thro several/ parts of Asia and Africa from y/ 1618 to y/ 1628 was/ delivered unto Slavery by a Barbari/ Prince in Zarquebar on the Cost of Africa where Princefs of that/ Countrie falling in love with him/ Even to Renoincing her Religion and/ Countrie contrived the mians of/both their Escape and getting a/board a ship trading up y/ Red/Sea landed cam to Alexandre(a) /where she died whofe Picture/Mr Henderson cauised to take/ with her black Maid after/ their oun Country habett/ from y/ original Picture/at oterston by W. Frier 1731
oil on canvas
67 x 124 cm.; 26 3/8  x 48 3/4  in.
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Provenance

By descent in the Henderson family to Sir Robert Bruce Henderson, 6th Bt. (1760-1833), Fordell Castle, Fife;
Jean, his sister, who married Lieutenant-Colonel George Mercer (1733-84);
By descent to Georgiana Mercer-Henderson wife of Sidney Carr Hobart-Hampden-Mercer-Henderson, 7th Earl of Buckinghamshire (1860-1930);
Thence by family descent, until sold ('The Property of a Nobleman'), London, Sotheby's, 14 June 2001, lot 1, where acquired by the present owner.

Exhibited

On loan to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 1992-2001.

Literature

Sir J. Gray, 'Sir John Henderson and the Princess of Zanzibar', 'Tanganyika Notes and Records', Journal of the Historical Association of Tanzania, no. 37, pp. 15-19;
D. Thomson, The Life and Art of George Jamesone, Oxford 1974, p. 121;
H. Smailes (ed.), The Concise Catalogue of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh 1990, p. 22.

Catalogue Note

This striking double portrait commemorates an unusual story concerning Sir John Henderson of Fordall in Fife, who is said to have been involved in campaigns in Africa where he was captured and held prisoner in Zanzibar. This princess from the island fell in love with him and arranged for their escape. They boarded a ship and reached Alexandria where the princess fell ill and died. The story has clear echoes of that of Captain John Smith, who was captured in 1607 in North America by a Red Indian tribe led by chief Powhatan, and who was rescued by the chief’s daughter Pocahontas whom he brought back to England. Whilst there were a number of Europeans who reached North America in the beginning of the seventeenth century, Zanzibar was, as Sir John Gray pointed out, (see Literature) more or less a terra incognita to the British. However Gray also points out that two early visits to the island by British ships were recorded by Edward Bonaventure in 1591 and by the Union in 1609. The arrival of the latter was not welcomed by the inhabitants and two of the crew were killed and held prisoner. At this date Zanzibar was ruled by a Moorish King who was an ally of the Portuguese. Portugal traded with the island and there was a church there 'with a Vicar of the Order of Saint Augustine to whom the King does all possible favours' (Rezende, in Description of the Mombassa of 1634). It seems clear that if a mercenary like Henderson was captured and brought to Zanzibar, he would have been regarded with hostility and held prisoner by Portugal’s loyal ally.

Henderson’s later career was as a soldier in Britain, and there is no evidence that he travelled abroad again. On 7 February 1625 he married Margaret, daughter of William Mentieth of Randiford. They had five sons and five daughters. Henderson was a loyal supporter of Charles I. He was knighted in about 1640, and in 1643 led an unsuccessful sortie into Lincolnshire. He commanded the Royalist garrison at Newark, and held the town against great odds until relieved by Prince Rupert. He was captured after the King’s defeat at Marston Moor, but released on parole and allowed to travel to Denmark where he had a diplomatic role.

The picture is painted by the rare artist Walter Frier who is known to have married Helen, daughter of John Borthwick, goldsmith and burgess of Edinburgh in 1705, and who had a career as portrait painter in the early eighteenth century. Five portraits by him hung formerly at Prestonfield House. The present portrait is said to be based on an earlier portrait but, as Duncan Thomson had pointed out at the time of the 2001 sale, may well be an elaboration of a single portrait of the princess. It hung at Fordell Castle, the imposing sixteenth-century home of the Henderson family, three miles west of Aberdour on the edge of a ravine above the Keithing Burn, which entered the family’s ownership with James Henderson, Lord Advocate (1494-1507) who acquired large estates in the area and was killed with his eldest son at Flodden in 1513.

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