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Baldwin's of St. James's
Auction 13  27 Nov 2017
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Lot 668

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Estimate: 7000 GBP
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Military Orders and Medals, World Orders and Decorations, The Unique Portuguese Serpa Pinto Society of Pernambuco Gold Medal, presented to Alexandre Alberto da Rocha de Serpa Pinto, Viscount of Serpa Pinto, by King Luis, 16th June 1879, for his Expedition from the Atlantic Gold Coast of Angola to the Indian Ocean Coast of Mozambique, November 1877 to March 1879, in gold, with gold wreath surround, set alternately with twelve diamonds and twelve natural pearls, the whole surmounted by gold openwork Portuguese crown, with alternate red and green enamel lozenges, engraved to obverse (Trinuto Ao Merito Ao Intrepi Do Explorador Portuguez Serpa Pinto) reverse engraved (A Sociedade Portugueza Serpa Pinto Em Pernambuco), light surface marks, extremely fine
'Having covered 3,400 miles he was the first explorer to cross from west to East Africa'
Alexandre De Serpa Pinto was born at Poldaras Castle, Cinfaes, 10 April 1846, and in 1856 he entered the Colegio Militar. Following his graduation in 1864 he held various military commands both in Portugal and Africa, seeing combat in the lower Zambezi area and rising to the rank of Major.
Following his service in Africa, Serpa Pinto proposed a scientific expedition to explore Africa between the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique. His proposed expedition was to be a scientific survey, noting the geographical, and astronomical details and the flora and fauna of the region.
From 1876-1877 he studied the astronomy and geography of currently known Africa. On 25 May 1877 the government approved and funded an expedition to map the Congo and Zambezi which was to be led by Serpa Pinto and accompanied by the Naval Captain Capello and Lieutenant Roberto Ivens.
The expedition left Bihe, Angola on 12 November 1877. Capello and Ivens remained behind in order to gather more porters and intended to join Serpa Pinto once this had been achieved; instead, however they decided they would explore North Eastern Angola, thus abandoning the expedition, which Serpa Pinto discovered by letter a few days later. Undeterred by this Serpa Pinto spent the next seventeen months overcoming mutinous porters, hostile tribes, rivers in full spate, dangerous animals, venomous snakes, persistent fevers and virtual starvation. Despite these obstacles he kept daily measurements, accompanied by drawings, of geographical, geological, meteorological, astronomical, anthropological, zoological and botanical data which he carefully logged. He finally reached the coast of Mozambique on 19 March 1879 having covered 3,400 miles and was the first explorer to cross from west to east Africa.
On his return he travelled extensively in Europe and Brazil presenting his finding to various geographical societies, fellow-scientists and members of the public. In 1881 his book describing the journey 'How I crossed Africa' was published in London. It was an immediate success and was soon republished in two popular editions. It is still considered a classic of its genre and was last republished in 2012. In 1881 he was honoured with the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.
During his tour of Portugal King Luis presented him with this medal in the Trindate hall in Lisbon. The city of Pernambuco had been home to his family and he had spent some time there as a child. The medal was designed by the noted artist Bordalo Pinheiro and manufactured by Brazilian jewellers.
From 1881 Serpa Pinto served in various parts of Africa and in 1884 he was appointed Portuguese consul to Zanzibar. Up until 1889 he continued to explore the various unknown regions to the west of Mozambique toward Lake Nyassa and the Shire Highlands. After his accession King Carlos, based on Serpa Pinto's expeditions, laid claim to all previously unknown lands between Angola and Mozambique - this was ultimately to lead to a clash with Britain over the territories now known as Malawi and Zambia, resulting in an ignominious climb-down by the Portuguese government.
He was subsequently appointed Brigadier General and A.D.C. to King Carlos in 1894 and on 24 January 1899 the king honoured Serpa Pinto with the title of Viscount. He died on 28 December 1900 laden with honours from all over the globe. He was also honoured by having various places named after him and his image has also been placed on postage stamps and banknotes. He is still remembered as a major figure in the golden age of African exploration.
(7000-8000 GBP)
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