Tuesday 21 November 2023

Ignatius Sancho

The conjectural account of Ignatius Sancho's earliest years offered by Prof Brycchan Carey in his talk for the Equiano Society  is extremely plausible and answers one puzzle, that presented by his name.  while Equiano through and after his years of enslavement acquired several names, as was common for such displaced individuals, Sancho  appears to have had only one from the age of around two years - and one that did not change when he was domiciled in Britain - where Ignatius was an unusual appellation.

Enslaved people - boys especially - were often mocked by being given classical names such as Pompey, Caesar, Hector, presumably as a kind of joke, underscoring their utterly powerless status with a heroic comparison.  Ignatius wouldn't work in quite the same way.  In Britain it was a Papist name, from Ignatius Loyola,  founder of the hated Jesuit order which in the early 18th century was still popularly believed to plot to 'return' Britain to Catholicism.  Attached to a friendless African orphan, it also would have a mocking element, which might explain why it was not changed to a more easily pronounceable name for a household servant.

In the preface to the   Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African, it is stated  that Sancho  was 'born A. D. 1729, on board a ship in the Slave-trade, a few days after it had quitted the coast of Guinea for the Spanish West-Indies, and, at Carthagena, he received from the hand of the Bishop, Baptism, and the name of Ignatius.   

Starting here, Brycchan Carey posits that the boy was in a shipment of captives  landed at the slave entrepot of Carthagena [now in Colombia]  where the Jesuit order ran the church  and organised mass  baptism for Africans, in a cathedral dedicated to Loyola.  Hence his 'Christian name'.  

Thence he was transported to Cadiz in Spain, another great trading city,  where ships of the British Navy were then able to anchor, and where he was acquired or bought by a young naval officer.  [If the dates are right, he seems a bit young - under three - for this, but maybe it was comparable to acquiring a puppy]  The midshipman was related to sisters living in Greenwich (conjecturally identified as Elizabeth, Susanna and Barbara Legge)  to whom on his return to Britain it is suggested young Ignatius was presented as a gift   According to the Letters preface, these women ' surnamed him Sancho, from a fancied resemblance to the 'Squire of Don Quixote.'    A fanciful name for a black servant who had apparently come from Spain.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

African Hospitality ???


African Hospitality, a painting by George Morland from 1790, was companion piece to the artist's Execrable Human Traffic  known as the Slave Trade.    The latter (RA 1788)  shows African captives forced on onto a slaving ship.  African Hospitality depicts local people rescuing shipwrecked Europeans off the African coast, an imagined scene from an actual event.

Both works were engraved for sale within the nascent campaign to abolish the Slave Trade launched in London in 1787.   Both found their way into the collection of Alexander Dennistoun, a Glasgow merchant with family investments in north American cotton production.   African Hospitality was loaned to the 1857 Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester (#136), together with another Morland canvas listed in the Art Treasures catalogue as ‘The Englishman’s Return for African Hospitality’ (#143)

Having vainly searched for an image of 'The Englishman’s Return' I now assume it was in fact Execrable Human Traffic.  Following the death of Alexander Dennistoun’s son, both paintings were sold as 'African Hospitality' and 'Slave Trade', at Christie's, London, 9 June 1894, lot 43 (33.5 x 47 inches) and lot 44 (32 x 47 inches )  [credit to Donato Esposito - see BM database for images of both engravings]

So I am curious as to how and when the extended title was attached to Execrable Human Traffic specifically accusing the 'English'.


Tuesday 10 October 2023

Henry James on Vernon Lee

 "Receive from me  a word of warning about Vernon Lee.  my reasons are several, and too complicated, some of them, to go into, but one of them is that she has lately, as I am told [in a volume of tales called Vanitas, which I haven't read] directed a sort of satire of a flagrant and markedly 'saucy' kind at me [!!] -  exactly the sort of thing she has done to others [her books - fiction - are a tissue of personalities of the hideous roman-a-clef kind] and of a particularly impudent and blackguardly sort of thing to a friend and one who has treated her with such such particular consideration as I have.

"... she is as dangerous and uncanny as she is intelligent - which is saying a great deal.  Her vigour and sweep of intellect are most rare and her talk superior altogether,  but I don't agree with you at all about her 'style', which I find insupportable, and I find also that she breaks down in her books.. There is a great second-rateness in her first-rateness.... At any rate, draw it mild with her on the question of friendship. She's a tiger-cat!"

to William James 1893

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Henry James on Burne-Jones December 1886

" I see Burne-Jones from time to time but not as often as I should like - I am always so afraid of breaking in on his work.  Whenever he is at home he is working - and when he isn't working he's not at home.  When I do see him, it is one of the best  human pleasures that London has for me.  But I don't understand his life - that is the manner and tenor of his production - a complete studio existence - with doors and windows closed, and no search for impressions outside - no open air, no real daylight and no looking out for it.  The things he does in these conditions have exceeding beauty - but they seem to me to grow colder and colder - pictured abstractions - less and less observed.  Such as he is, however, he is certainly the most distinguished artistic  figure among Englishmen today  - the only one who has escaped vulgarization and on whom claptrap has no hold.  Moreover he is, as you know, exquisite in mind and talk - and we fraternize greatly."

to Charles Eliot Norton

Monday 31 July 2023

P R Sisters 2


ANNIE MILLER  1835-1925

The daughter of a footsoldier, Miller grew up in poverty in the back streets of Chelsea, close to Holman Hunt’s studio.  Aged 18 she posed for the figure of a remorseful ‘fallen woman’ in his The Awakening Conscience.  Hunt then paid for her to be educated in literacy and ladylike manners as a suitable wife.

During Hunt’s travels in Egypt and Syria in 1854-6 she posed for John Millais, D.G.Rossetti. Arthur Hughes, Charles Collins and others. ‘She is a good girl and behaves herself very properly’, Millais reported.

In 1859, Hunt ended their engagement on the grounds of Annie’s ‘wilfulness’ and frivolity.  He offered assisted emigration, which she rejected in favour of modelling. ‘She  looks more beautiful than ever’, noted George Boyce.

When she encountered Rossetti at the International Exhibition in 1862, she was with ‘rather a swell’ and looking very handsome.  Her escort was an officer in the Volunteer reserve forces related to Lord Ranelagh named Thomas Thompson.  He and Annie married in 1863.  With a son and a daughter the couple moved to Richmond and then the south coast, where Annie died at age 90.

Sunday 30 July 2023

PR Sisters 1

Exhibition labels are fugitive texts.  They are also compressed and strictly informative.    It's instructive to see how they read  a few, or many, years later.  There follow those from the 2019-20 NPG exhibition

 ELIZABETH SIDDAL  1829-1862##

The London-born daughter of a Sheffield cutler and shopkeeper, she entered the Pre-Raphaelite world modelling for Walter Deverell, Holman Hunt and John Millais before becoming Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s model and muse.

Tall, slim and pale, with auburn hair, she was not considered beautiful by conventional standards, but appeared so in images like Millais’ Ophelia and Rossetti’s Beatrice.

An aspiring artist, she was the sole female exhibitor in the 1857 Pre-Raphaelite show that travelled to the US.  Inspired by the poetry of Tennyson and Browning and Scottish ballads, her watercolour works were on a small scale, suitable for illustration.

After a long engagement she and Rossetti married in 1860, becoming friends with Jane and William Morris and the Burne-Joneses.  In 1861 her daughter was stillborn, causing post-natal psychosis, and subsequent death from opiate overdose.    Later, Rossetti retrieved the poems he had placed in her coffin, explaining that ‘art was the only thing for which she felt seriously [and] had it been possible, I should have found the book on my pillow the night she was buried.’ 

Friday 7 July 2023

Bring Winifred home to Yorkshire


Help The De Morgan Museum bring Winifred Home. 

Support the public display of a rare portrait by Evelyn De Morgan.


The De Morgan Museum is launching an urgent appeal to bring home and display this captivating portrait by celebrated Victorian female artist, Evelyn De Morgan. Depicting her young cousin, Winifred Bulwer, on one of their family holidays to Cannon Hall, this is a unique example of De Morgan’s seldom-seen portraiture

image.pngChampioning a female artist


‘Portrait of Winifred Bulwer' (1880) is a stunning oil painting by Evelyn De Morgan (1855 - 1919), one of the most prominent female artists of the Victorian period. De Morgan rose to fame despite the challenges of social convention preventing women from becoming artists. At the beginning of her career, De Morgan made no fewer than three intimate portraits of close family members. With an arresting forward gaze and obvious ease with the artist, these intriguing artworks are unlike De Morgan’s historical and mythological subjects for which she is best known.


Saving local history


This portrait has been acquired for free public display at the De Morgan Museum at Cannon Hall, Barnsley, once a stunning 16th century mansion at which both artist and sitter spent happy summers with extended family. Displaying the painting here would at once enhance the understanding of De Morgan’s full artistic range and add an important piece of local history. The portrait will be displayed alongside scrapbooks of photographs and drawings which depict Winifred playing in the grounds of Cannon Hall, an activity still enjoyed by thousands of families today.


With your help, the De Morgan Museum now has the exciting opportunity to ensure this portrait will remain on public display in perpetuity from July 2023, for all to enjoy.


Please donate


This painting has been purchased with support by Art Fund and the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund who have recognised the importance of this painting for the De Morgan Museum at Cannon Hall, its audiences, and researchers.


The De Morgan Museum needs to raise £10,000 to prepare this portrait for display at its museum by Friday 21 July.


With just two weeks to reach our target, the De Morgan Foundation needs your help urgently. Please give as generously as you can: all donations, no matter how much, bring us one step closer to displaying this masterpiece for everyone to enjoy.




Associated Events

Friday 14 July, 12pm | Online Event




Learn more about the history of this beautiful painting and the artist who made it with the Director of the De Morgan Museum, Sarah Hardy, in conversation with renowned art historian and Pre-Raphaelite specialist, Jan March.


Sarah and Jan will outline De Morgan’s artistic career with a focus on her other portraits; a rare undertaking for the artist who only painted those closest to her. Sarah will also introduce the sitter, Winifred Bulwer, who was a child when her picture was painted. Much about Winifred’s life is known through scrapbooks which document her childhood family holidays at Cannon Hall, a place of importance to artist and sitter.