Fabric paintings by Malagasy artists

Scope and Content

Paintings on fabric by local artists, including the Malagasy painter Rainimaharosoa [James Rainimaharosoa, 1860-1926] depicting Malagasy people and scenery, thought to have been used by the London Missionary Society missionary, James Sibree, as visual and teaching aids when talking about his work in Madagascar. Rectangular paintings measure 84 cm x 106 cm and circular paintings 82 cm x 82 cm.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Rainimaharosoa (1860-1926) is one of the earliest known Malagasy painters. He seems to have learned the art of drawing and painting in 1870 with the British missionary William Johnson. He undertook portraits for Joseph Simon Gallieni (1849-1916), a French military commander and administrator in the French colonies, including Madagascar. In 1900, he exhibited at the Exposition Universelle [Universal Exhibition] in Paris, and six years later at the Exposition Coloniale [Colonial Exhibition] in Marseilles. [Source: allAfrica.com: Madagascar: 'The Malagasy great painters - from James Rainimaharosoa to Raparivo', downloaded 22 July 2015].

James Sibree was born in Hull on 14 April 1836. In his early life, Sibree served as an engineer's pupil and worked for the Hull Board of Health (1859-1863). In 1863 he sailed to Madagascar having been appointed Architect of the Memorial Churches, Tananarive, for the London Missionary Society (LMS). He worked on the churches at Ambatonakanga, Ambohipotsy, Andohalo and Manjakaray. He returned to England in 1867 to study at Spring Hill College, Moseley, near Birmingham. During his time at Spring Hill he also carried out deputation work for the London Missionary Society. James Sibree was ordained in 1870. He was also married in February of that year to Deborah Richardson. Together with his wife, he returned Madagascar as a missionary and was stationed at Ambohimanga. He worked on a revision of the Malagasy Bible, took part in a deputation and in 1876 went to work at the Theological Institution in Tananarive. In September 1877 the Sibrees returned to England, and from 1877 to 1879 he carried out deputation work in England. In November 1879 he was appointed as Principal of the London Missionary Society High School at Vizagapatam, South India. However, due to illness the Sibrees returned to England in June 1880. From 1880 to 1883 he once more carried out deputation work in England. In 1883, he and his wife were re-appointed to Madagascar, where Sibree became Principal of the LMS College at Tananarive. The Sibrees left Madagascar, arriving back in England in November 1916. Deborah Sibree died on 21 July 1920. In the last years of his life, James Sibree continued to carry out much of the deputation work for the LMS and the Bible Society. In 1923, James Sibree completed the Register of Missionaries and Deputations of the LMS.

Percy Millege (1874-1907), served as a missionary in Madagascar with the London Missionary Society between 1901 and 1907. He was appointed to the Imerina Mission, and for a time took charge of the Ambohipotsy district. In October 1903, he opened a new station and went to reside at Ambohitrolomahitsy, where he died in 1907.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

The paintings were donated to SOAS Library by David Milledge, great-grandson of James Sibree, in March 2015. The paintings were found in the attic of his father, Percy Milledge (also an LMS missionary) after his death.

Custodial History

One painting carries a stamp which reads 'To be returned to Mission House', suggesting that they were kept at a local mission station in Madagascar for a time.