Europeans Buying Enslaved Africans, ca. 1790

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This record was last updated on 13 Jun 2016

Image Reference

Engraving located in the Musee du Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, Nantes (France). (Slide, courtesy, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; image DS1989-502)

An engraving by John Raphael Smith from an oil painting by George Morland, an English painter. Morland exhibited the original painting, titled "Execrable human traffick, or the affectionate slaves" in London in 1788. Morland imagined this scene; it is not based on eye-witness observation. Shown are European slavers and captive Africans. The engraving shown above is captioned "Traite des Negres" [Slave Trade]. The text underneath reads: "Quel contrat infame. L'un Marchande Ce qui n'appartient a Personne, L'autre Vend la Propriete De la nature. Ce vil metier a ete aboli par la convention nationale le 16 Pluviose l'An deuxieme de la Republique francaise une et indivisble.'' ("What a squalid contract. One bargains over a person who belongs to no one, the other sells what belongs to Nature. This vile trade was abolished by the National Convention on the 16th Pluviose of the 2nd year [February 4, 1794] of a united and indivisible French Republic"; our translation.) France ended slavery in its colonies on February 4, 1794, but reinstituted it in 1809; the slave trade was abolished in 1818, but general emancipation did not take place until 1848. Although shown here in black and white, this engraving is also available in colored mezzotints. For more details and/or reproductions in color, see Marcus Wood, Blind Memory (Manchester Univ. Press, 2000), plate 2.15; T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz and others, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (New Haven : Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 302-303; and D. Hamilton and R. Blyth, Representing Slavery: Art, Artifacts and Archives in the Collections of the National Maritime Museum (London, 2007), p. 127.