Iron Mask and Collar for Punishing Slaves, Brazil, 1817-1818

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This record was last updated on 24 Oct 2009

Image Reference

Jacques Arago, Souvenirs d'un aveugle. Voyage autour du monde par M. J. Arago . . . (Paris, 1839-40), vol. 1, facing p. 119

Arago"s voyage took place between 1817 and 1820, during which time close to two months (early December to the end of January 1818) were spent in Brazil, particularly Rio de Janeiro. The engraving shown here, based on a sketch by Arago, is captioned "Chatiment des Esclaves, Brasil" (Punishment of Slaves). It shows an unidentified male and probably represents a composite of several enslaved Brazilians who Arago observed in the streets of Rio. This illustration is often confused and misidentified in secondary sources on slavery. Among other errors, such sources identify the subject as a woman, but Arago quite explicitly refers to the figure as a man. For a detailed discussion of this image and its historical context, see J. Handler and A. Steiner, "Identifying Pictorial Images of Atlantic Slavery: Three Case Studies," Slavery and Abolition 27 (2006), 56-62. The transformation of this image in Brazil in modern times to represent a martyred female slave is discussed in J. Handler and K. Hayes, "Escrava Anastacia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint," African Diaspora: Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World 2 (2009), 1-27.