Armchair Travel vs. Exploration  

Armchair Travel vs. Exploration

Blog | April 27, 2017
Yoruba Helmet Mask

Two upcoming auctions delve into the history of exploration and what it was like to live in a time of “armchair travel,” experiencing other cultures through images, books and stories. Our May 4 Documenting History auction will offer materials related to science, entertainment and exploration, and our May 8 – 18 timed online only auction of African and Oceanic Art includes both trade and ethnographic examples.


It was daring explorers and aggressive rulers who initially brought other worlds to Western cultures. King Henry IV of France sent his apothecary Jean Mocquet on six different voyages across the globe in the early 17th century to bring back rare specimens, including minerals, plants such as aloe, works of art and ceramics. Mocquet’s account of his travels Voyages En Afrique, Asie, Indes Orientales, & Occidentales will be offered on May 4 as part of the Documenting History sale. It was a bestseller in France and is still considered today as a thorough account of 17th century exploration.

Voyages En Afrique, Asie, Indes Orientales, & Occidentales

As such, Europeans of the early modern period traveled to Africa and as a result trade blossomed. European traders were anxious to bring back ivory, carvings, spices and gum and in return brought with them alcohol, textiles, iron and jewelry. During this time, objects such as this Yoruba helmet mask and Dogon carved wood seat became popular and were produced for tourists desiring to take something rare and exotic home.

Yoruba Helmet Mask
Dogon carved wood seat

In addition to these trade objects, numerous ethnographic objects will also be offered in our African and Oceanic sale such as this mask from the Kuba tribe. These objects were often made of organic materials such as wood or animal hide and decorated with elaborate geometric patterns.

Kuba mask

Exploration led to colonization, referred to as the “Scramble for Africa” on the African continent. This was documented by Henry Morton Stanley who in 1886 set out on one of the most ambitious expeditions into the interior of Africa to rescue Emin Pasha, the governor of Equatoria. Stanley’s account of this extraordinary expedition In Darkest Africa, depicts his travels through the now Democratic Republic of Congo. A First American Trade Edition, complete with wood engravings, plates and maps of the journey will also be offered in Documenting History.

In Darkest Afric

In addition to exploration of the African continent, Documenting History will include maps, books and manuscripts from expeditions of Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.


And in addition to the examples of African trade and ethnographic art shown here will be Oceanic objects offered in African and Oceanic Art, conducted May 8 – 18 on Bidsquare.


Documenting History, May 4, 2017 in Chicago

Preview in Chicago:

Sunday, April 30, 2017, 12pm – 4pm
Monday, May 1, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Tuesday, May 2, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 10am – 5pm



African and Oceanic Art, May 8 – 18, 2017 on

Preview in Chicago:

Sunday, May 14, 2017, 12pm – 4pm
Monday, May 15, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 10am – 5pm
Thursday, May 18, 2017, 10am – 5pm

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