Execution of Ali Bin Saif at Malindi, E.Africa

Charles Joseph Staniland

English ( b.1838 - d.1916 )

Execution of Ali Bin Saif at Malindi, E.Africa

  • Watercolour
  • Signed lower right

Image size 7.1 inches x 10.4 inches ( 18cm x 26.5cm )
Frame size 13.4 inches x 16.9 inches ( 34cm x 43cm )

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Sold by Big Sky Fine Art; this original monochrome watercolour by Charles Staniland; dating from the late 1880s.
The work is presented and supplied in a sympathetic contemporary frame, mounted using conservation materials and behind non-reflective glass.

This is a watercolour depicting the execution of one Ali Bin Saif at Malindi, East Africa. Malindi is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. Malindi served as a slave trade centre in the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1890 it came under the British administration, who abolished slavery there.

There is an ink and wash sketch in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection of a ship thought to be part of the same period of conflict. This is called “Off the Fashoda, fighting the Sud” (the Sud was a name for the native plant life in the water). That piece is dated 1898 and was reproduced in The Graphic in September of the same year. Another piece featuring one Major Marchand on the SS Dal appeared as an illustration in The Graphic in October 1898. It is believed therefore that this piece, the illustration of the execution of Ali Bin Saif, dates from an earlier date and may well have been the original painting for a newspaper illustration.

Charles Joseph Staniland was one of the leading British visual artists of the late Victorian period. He worked mainly as an illustrator and recorded many social and historic scenes of the day. He made regular contributions to the Illustrated London News and The Graphic magazine, and it was largely through illustrations such as his that the populous of the day saw what was happening in their world. His role was therefore an important one, making a vital contribution to the social knowledge and opinions of his age. His work has been cited as one of the inspirations for Vincent Van Gogh.

Staniland was born in Kingston-upon-Hull on June 19th 1838. His father was a merchant and it is possible that his international connections triggered Charles’ keen interest in social and historical matters both at home and abroad. Charles studied at the Birmingham School of Art under D.W. Raimbach and then in London at Heatherley’s, the National Art Training School in South Kensington and finally, from 1861, at the Royal Academy Schools. He lived at this time in St. John’s Wood.

Staniland became an accomplished and respected artist in both oils and watercolours and from the early 1860s he began to exhibit, in London and also the provinces. He exhibited some 87 works in all, including at the Royal Academy and the British Institute. His strengths were figures, historic scenes and marine works.

In 1875 Staniland was elected as an associate of the Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and he became a full member in 1879. He also became a member of the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours in 1883. (He resigned from the RI in 1890 and the ROI in 1896). Although he specialised in genre, marines and historical subjects, he also painted portraits and produced watercolours of still life and bird subjects.

Staniland simultaneously developed a prolific and successful career as an illustrator. Although he contributed to various periodicals he became a member of staff at The Illustrated London News, and later of The Graphic. He portrayed many of the social struggles of his time, and it is said that Van Gogh particularly admired his mining scenes.

Staniland’s work became much sought after and he began to also produce illustrations for books, especially popular adventure stories by authors such as George Manville Fenn and George Alfred Henty.

For most of his career Staniland lived in London, including Haverstock Hill. In 1893 he moved to Chingford in Essex and remained there until at least 1906. He died in London in 1916.

Staniland is remembered as a leading social realist of the late Victorian period and has made a significant contribution to our knowledge of historical events.

This original watercolour depicts a whitewashed courtyard in the Malindi region of Africa, There is a large crowd of native men, in traditional white robes and they are watching as a firing squad executes a male prisoner, Ali Bin Saif, who is stripped to the waist and bound to wooden stakes. His crime is not known. There is a double line of soldiers in uniform, no doubt to ensure an orderly process. A solitary Union Jack flies in at the front of proceedings, indicating that this is taking place on the authority of the British Army. Gunshot has just been fired, the deed is done, and smoke lingers in the air. To the rear is a large white building, possibly a headquarters or army barracks. Beyond the compound are palm trees and other smaller buildings. This is a solemn historic scene.