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Description

Trade for Ivory and Gold in West Africa

Beautiful circa 1820s or '30s watercolor drawing of a maritime scene off the coast of West Africa. The view shows a schooner, a brig, and several rafts off of Cape Lahou in central Cote d'Ivoire, with mountains depicted in the background. According to the caption, the drawing depicts two French ships trading with locals for gold powder and raw ivory.

Attractively and delicately painted, the work exhibits a profound appreciation for the environment realized in the rendering of the water, sky, and forests. The two tall ships in the center draw the eye, and the painting preserves a sense of what 19th-century commerce and exploration entailed.

This map can be dated to between 1822 and 1837, as this was when the Brick-Goelette Gazelle was in operation. This image was most likely sketched during the ship's 1835 voyage towards Senegal on its final voyage before being decommissioned in 1837 in Brest.

The view thus predates the system of French trading forts and protectorates that was established in Cote d'Ivoire starting in the 1840s. The early modern period of French control in this part of West Africa would start in earnest in 1843 when Admiral Louis Edouard Bouet-Willaumez signed treaties with local leaders putting the area coastal region under French control. This was developed further with trading forts that same decade, and later explorers and missionaries started pushing French control further inland.

Condition Description
Watercolor on paper mounted to board. Minor toning in upper and upper right part of image. Wear around edges. Minor loss into neatline in upepr part of image.