The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has been awarded a significant grant to support the acquisition of its first painting to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition.
The £50,000 used to acquire Am Not I A Man and a Brother, a painting dating from around 1800, is the result of a joint funding effort, made possible through a generous grant award by Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures program.
The painting’s dominant motif is that of an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and set against the backdrop of a Caribbean sugar plantation. It is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 1787, and is considered to be one of the first instances of a logo designed for a political cause, and used famously by the potter, Josiah Wedgwood. A significant acquisition for the UK, it is only the second known painting to exist featuring this motif – the only other being The Kneeling Slave at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.
Stephen Carl-Lokko, Curator, International Slavery Museum said: “This acquisition represents the first painting ever to be acquired by National Museums Liverpool to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition and we are very pleased to add it to our collection. Resistance is a key part of the history we bring to life in the International Slavery Museum and abolition is a very important part of this wider narrative.
“The painting is a remarkable surviving product of the early phase of the British movement to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the 18th and 19th centuries.” Following restoration and cleaning work to be carried out on the painting, it will go on display in the International Slavery Museum towards the end of 2018.
The painting was in a private collection previously.