'The Fantyman Head Dress, Gold Coast, Africa' [Bray album] by Gabriel Bray

'The Fantyman Head Dress, Gold Coast, Africa' [Bray album]

Gabriel Bray

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'The Fantyman Head Dress, Gold Coast, Africa' [Bray album] by Gabriel Bray zoom

'The Fantyman Head Dress, Gold Coast, Africa' [Bray album]

No. 65 of 74 (PAJ1976 - PAJ2049)

Bray's title, as above, is inscribed below these two head studies each with slightly different patterns of shaved hair style. The Fante, with the Asante (Ashanti), are the two main tribes of the Akan-speaking ethnic group of modern Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Historically, in English, the name was often also spelt Fantee. Bray's ship, the 'Pallas', was running along the coast of Ghana from about 19 March 1775 and reached Accra on the 30th. In his 'Observations on a Voyage to the Coast of Africa' (1788), recounting a slaving voyage to Benin at the same time as Bray (1774-75), James Field Stanfield describes them as a much employed and very effective at co-operating with European captains in the practical business of slaving, since European crews rapidly fell victim to the endemic fevers and heat of the climate. With PAJ2028 and PAJ2029, this is one of three such drawings of pairs of African heads in this Bray group which suggest he may have seen the engravings of Maori heads by Sydney Parkinson, from Cook's first voyage, published in 1773. Unlike those, however, Bray's stop at the base of the necks with a stylized sculptural edge. The group also includes a number of single African heads in monochrome (PAJ2011, PAJ2039 and an evident pair, PAJ2032 ane PAJ2033).

All are among of 73 drawings by Bray (plus one signed 'NF 1782') preserved in a 19th-century album that was purchased for the Museum by the Macpherson Fund of the Society for Nautical Research in April 1991. They have now been separately remounted. Bray (1750-1823), was second lieutenant of the 44-gun 'Pallas' under Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis (1744-1819) - later a well-known admiral - on two voyages (1774-77) to report on British interests in West Africa, including the slave trade. The dated drawings refer only to the first of these, from December 1774 to September 1775, though a few may be from the second. Others comprise country views, some of Deal, Kent (where Bray may have come from), and others of social-history interest. For further details see PAJ1976.
Gabriel Bray

Original size: 114 mm x 175 mm

  • Image reference: PT2040

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