The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has just opened an exhibition entitled ‘Le modèle noir De Géricault à Matisse,’ which attempts to restore the identities and perspectives of black figures depicted on canvas but largely written out of history. This article from the Washington Post focuses on one artwork in the exhibition. The painting by Marie-Guillemine Benoist has hung in the Louvre for decades under the title ‘Portrait of a black woman.’ In the new exhibition, the subject of the painting is named – it is entitled ‘Portrait of Madeleine’ because it is a portrait of an emancipated, formerly enslaved woman from Guadeloupe who worked in the home of the artist’s brother-in-law. The exhibition addresses France’s role in the slave trade and the manifestation of the debate over slavery in the arts of the period.
Marie-Guillemine Benoist, ‘Portrait d’une femme noire’ (1800), © Musée du Louvre
For more – click here for the Washington post article and here for the exhibition website.
I’ve mentioned before the Legacies of British Slave Ownership project at University College London, which has been useful for my research. I came across this beautiful sketch on the project’s website under the ‘documents of interest’ section. According to the LBSO research, William Berryman was an English artist who lived in Jamaica between 1808 and 1815. He sketched and painted over 300 drawings of landscapes and enslaved people.
The Library of Congress, which owns Berryman’s collection, has digitised eighty-six of his drawings. Click here to view the drawings on the Library of Congress website.
Click here to go to the LBSO website and for more information on William Berryman.