Enslaved Fruit and Vegetable Vendor, Brazil, ca. 1641

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This record was last updated on 05 Nov 2012

Image Reference

C. Ferrao and J. P. Soares, eds., Dutch Brazil, The "Thierbuch" and "Autobiography" of Zacharias Wagener; D.H. Treece and R. Trewinnard, English translators (Rio de Janeiro, Editora Index, 1997), vol. 2, p. 177, plate 98.

Titled, "Molher Negra" (a corruption, according to the translators, of the Portuguese "mulher negra" [black woman]). The woman, with a child at her side, is carrying a basket of fruit, wearing a short skirt, large hat, and bead necklace; a white clay pipe is tucked into her skirt. Wagener/Wagner was a German mercenary for the Dutch West India Company. In 1634, at the age of about 20, he went to northeastern Brazil where he stayed for 7 years. According to Wagener, "Black women . . . are not spared having to work in an exhausting manner in the mills and cane-fields just as the men and children do. Some of them know Spanish and Dutch money well, so their owners send them into the streets to sell chickens, birds, dried fish and all form of magnificent fruit" (vol. 2, p. 175). Wagener probably copied this painting from one done in 1641 by Albert Eckhout/Eeckhout, a Dutch painter who lived in Brazil from 1637 to 1644 (R. P. Brienen, Visions of Savage Paradise [Amsterdam, 2006] p. 130). The 1641 painting is in the National Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen), and is published in Antonio Riserio, Uma Historia de Cidade da Bahia (Salvador, Bahia, 2000), p. 116. See also image NW0318 on this website. (Thanks to Ana-Lucia Araujo for her help.)