A piece of Scottish exploration history, this wonderfully detailed staff belonged to the famed 19th century Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant. It was a highlight in our September 2020 auction of African & Oceanic Art.
This remarkable staff belonged to the famed Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant. Born in Nairn in 1827, Grant joined the army at the age of 19, serving primarily in India. He saw service in the Sikh War of 1848 and was wounded during the Indian Mutiny in 1857, returning to Scotland the following year.
In 1860 he joined the expedition led by John Hanning Speke to discover the source of the Nile. The expedition departed Zanzibar in October of that year, not returning until 1863. Speke became the first European to set eyes on Lake Victoria, whilst Grant made a series of valuable botanical collections. The two were feted as heroes upon their return to the United Kingdom, and in 1864 Grant published a wildly popular account of their journey, A Walk across Africa.
Grant returned to active duty with the army and served in the intelligence department of the Abyssinian expedition of 1868. At the close of the war he retired from the army with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and retired to Nairn, where he died in 1892.
Carved in the form of an East African staff, the entire length is carved and inked with depictions of many animals including lions, rhino, elephant, zebra and crocodiles, with shields of various designs and foliate motifs, and a compass at the top just below the ball head. We were delighted to offer this wonderful piece of Scottish exploration history in our September 2020 auction of African & Oceanic Art.