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Liverpool museum works to restore rare slavery painting

United Kingdom

Ahead of the annual remembrance day for the abolition of the slave trade, art conservationists are working to restore a rare painting of a kneeling African slave to go on display in the British port city of Liverpool.

Acquired by the International Slavery Museum in February 2018 through Ben Elwes Fine Art, London the “Am Not I A Man And A Brother” painting depicts an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and looking to the sky.

Senior Painting Conservator for Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, David Crombie said they don’t know exactly what age the painting is but imagining it’s late 18th early 19th century, as it relates to the Slavery abolition movement.

There is obviously a link to that date as that is where the image comes from. We don't know exactly.

“There is obviously a link to that date as that is where the image comes from. We don’t know exactly. The picture itself is a fairly conventional oil painting on canvas which has a ground layer, and the layers that I’m cleaning – this varnish, are on top of what I would describe as just conventional oil paint,’‘ he added.

The painting is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787 and was used by the potter Josiah Wedgwood to campaign against slavery,

‘‘Yes, I’m working on this image here which is the image of enslaved African, but it’s very interesting because it’s an extremely rare oil painted version of a figure emblem that was part of the abolitionist movement and only two oil paintings are known to survive with this image,’‘ Crombie said.

The artwork is still being restored and is due to go on display later this year and will be positioned next to “The Hunted Slaves” by Richard Ansdell. Both paintings offer very different depictions of enslaved Africans.

Millions of African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalised trades between the 15th and 19th centuries.

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