Europeans Purchasing an Enslaved Woman, 1793


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This record was last updated on 05 Jul 2017

Image Reference
NMM-2

Source
National Maritime Museum, London (PAG 9696)

Comments
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 we know of no evidence that indicates 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 and a greatly embellished version of it, which became the basis for a number of literary versions, was published 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.