Europeans Purchasing an Enslaved Woman, 1793

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This record was last updated on 03 Jan 2018

Image Reference

National Maritime Museum, London (PAG 9696)

This ink and watercolor painting is signed by the artist, Samuel Hutchinson, which he dated 1793 and titled “Slave Traffic.” This is an imagined scene, not based on the artist’s own experience. It shows a coastal scene with a group of European men and a captive woman in chains and European vessels anchored offshore. In a catalog description of this painting, it is claimed that the “painting refers to the story of Inkle and Yarico, first published in 1711” (D. Hamilton and R. Blyth, Representing Slavery: Art, Artifacts and Archives in the Collections of the National Maritime Museum [London, 2007], p. 274). However there is no evidence suggesting that the painting relates to this story about a young English sailor (Inkle) who allegedly duped his Amerindian lover (Yarico) and sold her into slavery in Barbados in the seventeenth century. The story, in fact, was first published in 1657 (in Richard Ligon's True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados) and a greatly embellished and fanciful version of it, which became the basis for a number of literary versions, was published in The Spectator (London) in 1711. It is more likely that the painting relates to the controversy surrounding the trans-Atlantic slave trade, then a major issue in Britain. Compare the scene in the lower right-hand corner of this image with the illustration "un Anglais de la Barbade vend sa maitresse" (image H005 on this website); perhaps the artist incorporated the latter into his painting.