De Meillon’s Legacy


Henry Clifford De Meillon (1800-1859) is recognised as one the most significant South African artists of the early 19th century.



Anna Smith’s Cape Views and Costumes (1978) reproduced works from the Brenthurst Library and tried to establish facts behind his life but left many unanswered questions. The authors have addressed most of these with newly discovered records. In addition to new research discoveries, a large body of unpublished art works by De Meillon were found and are reproduced here, including hydrographic charts and coastal views done aboard HMS Leven, Cape wild flowers, views of the Cape, as well as later paintings from the eastern Cape wild frontier. These add significantly to the portfolio of De Meillon’s known art, increasing his stature as an important South African artist. Many of the puzzles about his life and family have also been solved. The De Meillon family typifies many South African families. Their origins are diverse, and by the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, descendants found themselves on opposing sides of the conflict. Later generations of De Meillons made significant contributions to Science and Art, such as the world-renowned entomologist, Botha De Meillon, and his daughter, the artist Mimi Cabri. This book is a tribute to the lasting legacy of Henry Clifford De Meillon, progenitor of the family in South Africa and beyond.

About the Authors


Louis J. Cabri, Ph.D., FRSC, P.Geo (ON), is a recently retired geologist specialising in mineralogy. A graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand and of McGill University, he has published widely in peer-reviewed professional journals, as well as written and edited several books on mineralogy and geology. Louis first became aware of Henry Clifford De Meillon when his father-in-law (Botha De Meillon) presented his daughter Mimi with a copy of Smith’s (1978) book on Henry Clifford’s water colours. Over the years, Botha would comment on his ancestors, believing they were French Huguenots, but Louis only started to research the family in the last few years, when he became interested in genealogy and the family tree. Searching for confirmatory documents on De Meillon ancestors led to many friendships and to learning that Roger James was also interested in researching the same De Meillon ancestors.

Roger W. James, MBChB, MMed (AnatPath), FRCPath, is a 5th generation descendant of HC De Meillon. Although a medical doctor and Pathologist by training, he has had a long interest in genealogy and South African history. He was intrigued as a child of family stories of the De Meillons being descended from French nobility or Napoleon Bonaparte. When his parents bought a copy of Anna Smith’s book Cape Views and Costumes, he was struck by the beauty and simplicity of the paintings, as well as the historical significance of the images. He started researching the artist and his descendants as so little was known about this significant South African artist. Years later, he met Louis Cabri and they decided to collaborate to produce a publication of their findings, significantly adding to what is known about the artist, his work and his descendants.

IBSN: 978-0-6398050-1-6