People of Color in European Art History

  1. 1800s Week!

    John Phillip Simpson

    The Captive Slave (Ira Aldridge as model)

    England (1827)

    Oil on canvas 50 x 40 in. (127 x 101.5 cm)

    The Art Institute of Chicago

    The story of this artwork is quite remarkable.

    The Art Institute of Chicago announced in 2009 that it had acquired a painting that had not been viewed or on display for over 180 years.

    This is that painting.

    There is sufficient evidence to assume that this painting was done by Simpson in collaboration with Aldridge as an abolitionist statement. It was first displayed in 1827 at the Royal Academy of Arts Along with this poem:

    But Ah! what wish can prosper, or what prayer

    For merchants rich in cargoes of despair

    -Cowper, 1782

    Recommended Reading:

    "The Captive Slave" by John Simpson (1782-1847): A rediscovered masterpiece
    Martin Postle
    The British Art Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Spring 2009), pp. 18-26
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