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Daniel Lerpiniere, c.1745–1785
after drawings by George Robertson, 1749–1788
A View in the Island of Jamaica of the Bridge crossing the Cabaritta River on the Estate of William Beckford Esqr.
Materials & Techniques:
Image: 13 3/4 x 20 1/2in. (34.9 x 52.1cm), Sheet: 18 1/2 x 22 1/4in. (47 x 56.5cm), Plate: 15 3/4 x 21 1/2in. (40 x 54.6cm)

Inscribed in plate, below, center: "John Boydell excudit 1778."; below: "A VIEW IN THE ISLAND OF JAMAICA,"; below: "of the Bridge crossing the Cabaritta River, on the Estate of William Beckford Esq.r"; below: "To whom this Plate is Dedicated, by his most Obliged Servant, JOHN BOYDELL."; below: "Published March 25th, 1778 by John Boydell Engraver in Cheapside London."; below, left: "Drawn on the Spot & Painted by George Robertson."; below, right: "Engraved by Daniel Lerpiniere."; bottom left: "N.o 4."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Prints and Drawings
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B2001.2.1521, B2001.2.1519 These belong to a set of six finely wrought engravings made, by the leading engravers of the day, after a set of paintings by George Robertson depicting the estates of William Beckford of Somerley (see essay by Tim Barringer in this volume, pp. 00-00). Dedicated to Beckford by their publisher, John Boydell, it is not clear whether the engravings were made as a self-contained commercial venture or were linked to one of Beckford's publishing schemes. Certainly, A View in the Island of Jamaica of the Bridge crossing Cabaritta River on the Estate of William Beckford Esqr. presents Jamaica in the same idyllic light as Beckford does in his Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica. The picturesque elements of the scene-running water, an elegant bridge, varied foliage, and a human incident in the foreground- are tropes familiar from representations of English scenery, but differences remain. Robertson emphasizes the richness of the tropical vegetation and the life of ease enjoyed (according to Robertson and his patron's partial view) by the enslaved inhabitants of Jamaica. Two men with staffs, seemingly naked or scantily clad, pose nonchalantly on the bridge, while a further picturesque group comprising a washer woman and two men (one bearing a basket on his head) appears at ease in the foreground. The bridge itself symbolizes Beckford's activities as an improving landlord, its elegant wooden structure echoed by the wooded eminence behind. The building of bridges would be identified even more closely with the process of colonial development in James Hakewill's 1824 print of the Iron Bridge near Spanish Town, which was erected in 1800-1801 (see cat. 73), a symbol of colonial improvement that itself echoed the famous Iron Bridge over the river Severn in Shropshire (see cat. 16). A View in the Island of Jamaica of Roaring River Estate, belonging to Mr William Beckford Esqr near Savannah la Marr comes closer to Robertson's English industrial imagery (see cat. 17). Beckford's estates lay on the fertile lowland coastal plain at the foot of mountains in Westmoreland, at the extreme western tip of Jamaica. The area boasted some of the most profitable sugar plantations, such as Friendship and Greenwich.1 An artful deployment of chiaroscuro throws the foreground and foliage to the left into deep shadow but allows the mountains in the background to glow in the sun. Nestling peacefully in between these regions is a tranquil and orderly scene in which an industrious labor force goes about its business with no signs of coercion. A driver, one of the most highly respected among enslaved figures on the plantation, leads six oxen down a rutted track to the right; smoke emits from the roof of what is probably the boiling house. Fast flowing water escapes from a sluice, indicating that the sugar mill was powered by water here, rather than by cattle (as at estates such as Old Montpelier; see cat. 75) or a windmill.

Gallery label for Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-09-27 - 2007-12-30)

Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-09-27 - 2007-12-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Timothy J. Barringer, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2007, pp. 281-82, no. 15, N8243 S576 B37 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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