Marseille, 1880. Savorgnan de Brazza, an explorer in the service of the French state for the development and colonization of African territories, travels to the Congo to join his collaborator, Dr. Eugène Ballay. The objective was to persuade Ma-Onko, the king of the Batéké, to sign a protectorate treaty ratified by the French government. However, as is often the case in Africa, Savorgnan knew that gifts played a crucial role in negotiations, and that documents and words alone were not sufficient to convince the Congolese chief.

The next day, informed of the convoy’s arrival, King Ma-Onko was present, surrounded by his wives, dignitaries, armed guards, and a crowd of subjects. Unpacking sculptures, watches, and other jewelry, unfurling velvet and silk, Savorgnan and his team hoped to impress the king. However, the king remained indifferent, preferring the glass ball carefully attached to a splendid ebony cane, a gift from Dr. Ballay, which he held in his hands, declaring, « This is my favorite gift, it was given to me by Dr. Ballay, he is a great chief! »

The satisfaction of King Ma-Onko, thanks to the intervention of his friend Eugène Ballay, the expedition’s physician, a few weeks earlier, relieved Savorgnan. Thus, the king accepted the protectorate treaty proposed by France, and this is how Brazzaville, now the capital of the Congo (formerly a French colony), came into being.

This painting depicts the disappointment of a king after the signing of an agreement declaring the Congo’s territory under French protection. Hoping for commercial opportunities and an advantage over his enemies, the king would soon realize that many colonists would oppress the people and plunder their riches.