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Sun Oct 17, 2021, 04:19 PM

Who Is the Enslaved Child in This Portrait of Yale University's Namesake?

Scholars have yet to identify the young boy, but new research offers insights on his age and likely background

Nora McGreevy
Daily Correspondent

October 15, 2021



Yale's namesake sits at the center of this group portrait, Elihu Yale With Members of His Family and an Enslaved Child (circa 1719, attributed to John Verelst). Public domain via Yale Center for British Art / Gift of Andrew Cavendish, eleventh Duke of Devonshire


For decades, an unsettling portrait of Yale University’s namesake and early benefactor, British American colonist Elihu Yale, carried a maddeningly incomplete description. The painting shows four white men in costly 18th-century outfits posing around a table, with Yale at the center. As the men smoke and sip madeira, Yale’s grandchildren play in the field behind them.

In the right corner of the canvas, a child of African descent pours wine for the group. He wears fine red and grey clothes and—most disturbingly—a silver collar locked around his neck.

First donated to the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) in 1970 and exhibited sporadically over the past five decades, the painting was initially displayed with wall text that listed the men’s titles but did not mention the enslaved child at their side. When the gallery was rehung in 2016, a new line acknowledged little beyond the boy’s apparel: “Nothing is known ... except that his livery identifies him as a servant, and the padlocked collar indicates that he is enslaved.”



A boy of African descent, estimated to be about 10 years old, serves
madeira to the wealthy white men at the table. Public domain via Yale
Center for British Art / Gift of Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire

Unanswered questions about the enslaved child haunted New Haven resident Titus Kaphar when he first saw the portrait in 2016. Inspired, the artist painted Enough About You, which warps the 18th-century work beyond recognition, save for the boy’s portrait, which is framed in gold.

More:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/yale-researchers-hope-to-identity-enslaved-child-in-namesake-portrait-180978879/

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Reply Who Is the Enslaved Child in This Portrait of Yale University's Namesake? (Original post)
Judi Lynn Oct 17 OP
JoeOtterbein Oct 17 #1
marble falls Oct 17 #2
Chin music Oct 17 #3
lapucelle Oct 17 #4
marble falls Oct 17 #5
hermetic Oct 18 #6

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Oct 17, 2021, 04:23 PM

1. K n R ! Thanks for posting!

Interesting questions.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Oct 17, 2021, 04:54 PM

2. Judi, you post a lot of amazing things here, more than any ten of us, but this is the gem: ...

... what an eye opener, and what an involved and intriguing investigation and story.

I hope that an updated history is developing. I can't wait and I know you'll be the one to break it on DU.

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Response to marble falls (Reply #2)


Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Oct 17, 2021, 06:39 PM

4. "Enough About You"

Unanswered questions about the enslaved child haunted New Haven resident Titus Kaphar when he first saw the portrait in 2016. Inspired, the artist painted Enough About You, which warps the 18th-century work beyond recognition, save for the boy’s portrait, which is framed in gold.

Kaphar’s subject stares directly at the viewer and does not wear a collar. As the artist told Terence Trouillot of Artnet Newsin 2019, “I decided to physically take action to quiet [and crumple] the side of the painting that we’ve been talking about for a very long time and turn up the volume on this kid’s story.”

Four years after Kaphar created Enough About You, the YCBA embarked on a project to do just that. Last fall, after a landmark summer of protests against racial injustice, director Courtney J. Martin decided to temporarily remove the Yale group portrait from view. The museum hung Kaphar’s painting, on an eight-month loan from private collectors in California, in its place.


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Response to lapucelle (Reply #4)

Sun Oct 17, 2021, 07:02 PM

5. People use the term "powerful piece of art". This is the epitome of "powerful piece of art".

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Response to lapucelle (Reply #4)

Mon Oct 18, 2021, 07:33 AM

6. Wow

Excellent! K&R

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