William Unsah Sessarakoo, ca. 1749


The National Portrait Gallery (London); Barbados Museum


This engraved mezzotint, dated 1749, by John Faber Jr., a well-known English engraver, is from a portrait painted by Gabriel Mathias, identified as an eminent London painter by the Universal Magazine (London, 1748, vol. 3, p. 232). Both the painter and the engraver are identified on the lower borders of the engraving (not clearly visible on our website, but quite evident when examining the original engraving). We have no information how Mathias came to paint the portrait or when he painted it; or the present location of the painting. The engraving caption reads: William Unsah Sessarakoo, son of John Bannishee Corrantee, ohinnee of Anamaboe and of Eukobah, daughter of Ansah Sessarakoo, king of Aquamboo & niece to Quishadoo, king of Akroan. He was sold at Barbados as a slave in the year 1744. He was redeemed at the earnest request of his father in the year 1748 and brought to England. For details, including reference to a biography of Sessarakoo (The Royal African: or, Memoirs of the Young Prince of Annamaboe [London, 1749]), see Jerome S. Handler, Life Histories of Enslaved Africans in Barbados, Slavery & Abolition, vol. 19 (1998), p. 136n7. Another version of this engraving (see image reference gentmag on this website) was published in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 20 (June, 1750), facing p. 272, which refers to an earlier article in the magazine briefly reporting on Sessarakoo's life and visit to London (vol. 19 [February, 1749], pp. 89-90). The engraving was published in separate sheets and sold at 1 shilling, 6 pence each. The National Portrait Gallery (London) has two copies of this engraving (see NPG online data base). The Barbados Museum also has a copy; the image shown here is from a photographic copy of the Barbados Museum engraving, and was provided to Handler in October 1960 by the late Neville Connell, Director.


Faber, John Jr.

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