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.
This is an excellent article about the way that the curators at the Musée de l’Histoire de Nantes have displayed the portraits of Dominique and Marguerite Deurbroucq—and in particular, the way that the curators draw museum-goers’ attention to the enslaved Africans depicted in the portraits.
In May 2015, theMusée de l’Histoire de Nantes welcomed two of their most influential citizens of the eighteenth century to their permanent collection. The museum, housed in the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, received two portraits – one of Dominique Deurbroucq and the other of his wife Marguerite – both of which feature prominently in the main exhibition on Atlantic slavery and the slave trade in Nantes. Painted in 1753 by Pierre-Bernard Morlot, the Deurbroucqs are portrayed in all of the luxe of the century, accompanied by their domestic slaves who lived with them in Nantes. I recently visited the collection and was particularly interested in the framing of these two portraits within the narrative of the tran-Atlantic slave trade and the history of Nantes.
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.