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The Head-dress of the Jolliffes, Gum Coast, Africa
'Europeans in the pre-industrial age used gum arabic [a tree resin] as a stiffener in making paint, paper, glue and ink, in preparing foodstuffs and cosmetics and in sizing cloth...and by the eighteenth century the Mauritanian Sahara had become virtually the sole supplier of gum arabic to Europe' (J. L. A. Webb jr., 'The Trade in Gum Arabic:....' in 'Journal of African History', vol. 26 (1985) p.149). This was exported from the coast of southern Mauritania - which became known as the 'gum coast', and from the Senegal River - Mauritania and Senegal, immediately to the south, being the neighbouring and most westerly coastal states of Africa. Bray presumably saw these men (though 'Jolliffe' is an approximation of a local group name not immediately discoverable) when the 'Pallas' called at the Senegal River on her way down the African coast in 1775. The ship only briefly stopped there, however, on 28 -31 January. Between 10 February and 2 March she was in Frenchman's Bay, Sierra Leone, and then cruised east with few further stops towards Whydah. Bray's March date is therefore likely to be an inaccurate later recollection, unless he saw these men well away from their usual area. With PAJ2029 and PAJ2040, 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).
Gabriel Bray (1750-1823)
Original size: 125 mm x 175 mm
- Image reference: PT2028
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London