Whipping of a Fugitive Slave, French West Indies, 1840s


Painted by Marcel Verdier and published in Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art (Menil Foundation, Harvard University Press, 1989), vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 153, fig. 91 (see also www.artstor.org). The original oil painting (approx. 59 x 84 inches) is held by the Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas."


Lying on his stomach, the victim's hands and legs are tied to stakes while he is being whipped by the black overseer; next to one of his legs is the iron spiked collar, with attached chain, which was often attached to the neck of captured fugitive slaves. Other slaves and the planter and his family witness the scene. Marcel Verdier (1817-1856) gave an 1849 date to his work (see lower right hand corner), but it may have been done in 1843 for an exhibition at the Paris Salon. Originally advertised by the title Le Supplice de Fouet, it was listed in a catalog for the exhibition as Chatiment des Quatres Piquets dans les Colonies (Punishment of the Four Stakes/Pegs in the Colonies), the name by which it is commonly known. The exhibition jury rejected the painting because its harsh theme would have offended the colonial ambassadors in Paris (William Hauptman, Juries, Protests, and Counter-Exhibitions before 1850. The Art Bulletin 67 [1985], pp. 105- 106; see also Hugh Honour, pp.153-154, 156). Although this painting has often been reproduced in books dealing with New World slavery, it is not based on the artist's own observations. (Thanks to Claude Picard for his help.)


Verdier, Marcel

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