Property from a Private Collection
THOMAS BAINES | The British Expedition to Abyssinia, 1868; Indian elephants carrying guns up a mountain pass
Estimate: 30,000 - 50,000 GBP
Property from a Private Collection
The British Expedition to Abyssinia, 1868; Indian elephants carrying guns up a mountain pass
signed T BAINES lower right
oil on canvas
31 by 46cm., 12¼ by 18in.
Framed: 45 by 61cm, 17¾ by 24in.
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Please note, Condition 11 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is no applicable to this lot
The canvas has a wax relining, the paint surface is clean and the varnish is clear and even. The vigorous brushwork is very well preserved. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals some scattered pin-prick retouchings in the sky and in the top of the mountain on the left, but otherwise very little intervention, with only a handful of small spots of retouching. In overall very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
R. Suggate (acquired from the artist)
Douglas Ross Milne (by descent from the above; sale: Sotheby's, London, 27 September 1978, lot 29)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, Thomas Baines first travelled to Africa at the age of twenty-two, where he found work as official war artist to the British Army during the Eighth Frontier War. In 1855 he joined Augustus Gregory’s expedition to explore northern Australia; however, he is probably best remembered today for his role as the official artist to David Livingstone’s 1858 expedition along the upper reaches of the Zambezi river, on the border of modern-day Zimbabwe and Zambia. He was consequently the first western artist ever to see and document Victoria Falls.
An intrepid explorer, Baines spent much of the rest of his life travelling throughout southern Africa and died in Durban in 1875, having undertaken numerous expeditions across the continent. Though he never visited Ethiopia he produced a number of paintings on Abyssinian subjects, including Elephant Hunting with the sword, Abyssinia (1867, King’s Lynn Museum, Norfolk). His interest in the region was sparked by the kidnapping of the British Consul in Ethiopia, Charles Duncan Cameron, by Emperor Tewodros II, and the subsequent British Expedition to Abyssinia, under the command of Sir Robert Napier, in 1868.
This is one of a series of paintings about the campaign that Baines painted during his last days in England to illustrate a lecture he gave on Abyssinia at the London Polytechnic. One of the chief objects of this lecture was to illustrate to the British public the severe logistical difficulties faced by a modern European army operating in such challenging and inhospitable terrain, as this painting graphically illustrates. Other works from this group include Troops ascending a ravine from Annesley Bay in Abyssinia (1868) and Devra Damo with the procession of the heir to the throne of Abyssinia (1867), both of which are in the Gubbins Africana Library, Johannesburg. Baines’ knowledge of the topography and culture of the country was drawn from research in the British Museum, particularly the maps and accounts found in Henry Salt’s 1814 Voyage to Abyssinia, combined with his first-hand experience of the awe-inspiring geography of Africa.
The majority of the troops involved in the expedition came from the Indian Army, Primarily the Bengal and Bombay Presidencies, with a small number from the Madras Presidency Army. However, regulars from the British Army's 33rd Regiment of Foot and a detachment of Royal Engineers were also present. The main British force set sail from Bombay under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Napier, and landed at Zula on the Red Sea on 2 January 1868. With them they brought forty-four trained elephants from India to carry the heavy guns over four hundred miles of mountainous terrain to Emperor Tewodros's fortress at Magdala. The guns seen here are thought to be Armstrong 9 pounders of G Battery, from the 14th Brigade, Royal Artillery, whilst the formation of marching troops are probably the 23rd Sikh Pioneers.