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Creator:
Print made by Richard Cosway, 1742–1821, British
after Richard Cosway, 1742–1821, British
Title:

Richard and Maria Cosway, and Ottobah Cugoano

Former Title(s):

Richard and Maria Cosway

Date:
1784
Medium:
Etching and aquatint printed in brown ink on medium, slightly textured, cream paper
Dimensions:
Sheet: 12 5/8 × 15 3/8 inches (32 × 39 cm), Plate: 11 1/2 × 14 3/8 inches (29.2 × 36.5 cm), and Image: 8 11/16 × 11 5/8 inches (22 × 29.5 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Lettered, inside image, lower right: "Cosway. 1784"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1977.14.12240
Classification:
Prints
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
arch | bird | couple | fountain | garden | genre subject | grapes | grapes | leaves | man | peacock | portrait | servant | statues | trees | vines | water | woman
Associated People:
Cugoano, Ottobah [John Stuart] (b. 1757?), slavery abolitionist and writer
Cosway, Richard (bap. 1742, d. 1821), artist and collector
Cosway, Maria Louisa Catherine Cecilia, Baroness Cosway in the nobility of the Austrian empire (1760–1838), history painter and educationist
Access:
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:51086
Export:
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In 1784, the fashionable artists Richard Cosway (1742–1821) and his wife Maria (born Maria Hadfield, 1760–1838) moved to a splendid London residence at Schomberg House. In this “fancy dress” self-portrait, Richard—styling himself in the manner of the Flemish court painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)—shows himself and Maria seated in the garden of their new home. The servant who stands beside them presenting a platter of grapes is Ottobah Cugoano (b. 1757?), who worked for the Cosways from at least 1784 until about 1791. An early biographer of Cosway recounted that Cugoano was attired “in crimson silk with elaborate lace and gold buttons, and, later on, in crimson Genoa velvet, in imitation of the footmen at the Vatican.”

Born in present-day Ghana, Cugoano was sold into slavery in 1770. Two years later, he arrived in England, where he soon gained his freedom and was baptized John Stuart. In 1787 he published "Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species", the most radical abolitionist text of its time. It called for an immediate end to slavery throughout the British Empire. Among subscribers to the second edition were the artists Sir Joshua Reynolds, James Northcote, Joseph Nollekens, and Cosway himself.

Gallery label for Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain (Yale Center for British Art, 2014-10-02 - 2014-12-14)
In 1784, the fashionable artists Richard Cosway (1742–1821) and his wife Maria (born Maria Hadfield, 1760–1838) moved to a splendid London residence at Schomberg House. In this “fancy dress” self-portrait, Richard—styling himself in the manner of the Flemish court painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)—shows himself and Maria seated in the garden of their new home. The servant who stands beside them presenting a platter of grapes is Ottobah Cugoano (b. 1757?), who worked for the Cosways from at least 1784 until about 1791. An early biographer of Cosway recounted that Cugoano was attired “in crimson silk with elaborate lace and gold buttons, and, later on, in crimson Genoa velvet, in imitation of the footmen at the Vatican.”

Born in present-day Ghana, Cugoano was sold into slavery in 1770. Two years later, he arrived in England, where he soon gained his freedom and was baptized John Stuart. In 1787 he published "Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species", the most radical abolitionist text of its time. It called for an immediate end to slavery throughout the British Empire. Among subscribers to the second edition were the artists Sir Joshua Reynolds, James Northcote, Joseph Nollekens, and Cosway himself.

Esther Chadwick, Meredith Gamer, and Cyra Levenson

Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in eighteenth-century Atlantic Britain, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2014, pp. 34, 44, V 2556 (YCBA)

Figures of Empire : Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2014, pp. 34, 44, V 2556 (YCBA)

Aileen Ribeiro, The art of dress, fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820 , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1995, pp. 195, 198, pl. 207, GT736 R53 1995 (YCBA)

Slavery and Portraiture in 18th-century Atlantic Britain, [ Website ] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2015, Available Online https://interactive.britishart.yale.edu/slavery-and-portraiture/


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