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Print made by Richard Cosway, 1742–1821, British
after Richard Cosway, 1742–1821, British
Richard and Maria Cosway, and Ottobah Cugoano
sepia-colored soft-ground etching on medium, slightly textured, cream paper
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)

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

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
arch | bird | couple | fountain | garden | genre subject | grapes | grapes | leaves | man | peacock | portrait | servant | statues | 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
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Curatorial Comment:
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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. --This text served as the label to this object in Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain, an exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art that was curated by Esther Chadwick, Meredith Gamer, and Cyra Levenson, which was on view from October 2, 2014 until December 14, 2014.
Exhibition History:
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Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain (Yale Center for British Art, 2014-10-02 - 2014-12-14)

Two Extraordinary Women : The Lives and Art of Maria Cosway (1760-1838) and Mary Darby Robinson (1757-1800) (The Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia, 2016-01-29 - 2016-05-01)

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Figures of empire : slavery and portraiture in eighteenth-century Atlantic Britain, organized by the Yale Center for British Art and curated by Esther Chadwick and Meredith Gamer, PhD candidates in the History of Art at Yale University and Cyra Levenson , 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)

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