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"Attendant with Pearls": Race, Portraiture and Abolition

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A comparison of pre-abolition painting to those after the atrocities highlighted by the anti-sugar campaign

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This talk compares how Black figures in portraits and paintings are attired and positioned in pre-abolition paintings to how artists rendered them in response to the atrocities highlighted by the anti-sugar campaigns. It discusses paintings like Louise de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth’s portrait with a Black child, the now famous portrait of Lord Mansfield’s nieces Dido and Elizabeth, and W. Pyott’s "The Benevolent Effects of Abolishing Slavery or the Planter Instructing his Negro". It will also show how Black contemporary artists like Peter Brathwaite’s and Titus Kaphar’s interpretations of pre-1900 paintings should be understood and celebrated as emancipatory acts.

Patricia A. Matthew is an associate professor of English at Montclair State University where she teaches courses about British Romanticism, the history of the novel, and British abolitionist literature.

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Organizer NY Metro Region of The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA)

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