Search Details

Creator Unknown artist, eighteenth century
Title Elihu Yale; William Cavendish, the second Duke of Devonshire; Lord James Cavendish; Mr. Tunstal; and an Enslaved Servant
Alternate Title(s) Elihu Yale, the second Duke of Devonshire, Lord James Cavendish, Mr. Tunstal, and a Page
The 2d Duke of Devonshire, Lord James Cavendish, Elihu Yale, an unknown adult male, and a page
Date ca. 1708
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 79 1/4 x 92 3/4 inches (201.3 x 235.6 cm)
Label on verso, center left: "Artist British School | Elihu Yale, the 2nd Duke of Devonshire, Lord | James Cavendish, Mr. Tunstal, and a Page. | Medium c. 1708 oil on canvas | Size 79 1/4 x 92 3/4 Accession no B1970.1 | Credit line Gift of the 11th Duke of Devonshire"; center left: "IR 30 | B1970.1"
Credit Line Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Andrew Cavendish, eleventh Duke of Devonshire
Accession Number B1970.1
Collection Paintings and Sculpture
Curatorial Comment Nothing is known about the boy on the right, who has just finished pouring Madeira (a sweet, fortified wine) into the glasses on the table. His fine red and grey livery (or uniform) identifies him as a servant, and the silver collar and padlock around his neck indicate that he is enslaved. At the table sit Elihu Yale (center), William Cavendish, second Duke of Devonshire (right), and his younger brother James Cavendish (left). Near them is a man, who is identified on the back of the canvas as a lawyer named Mr. Tunstal. The portrait, which seems to be set on the Duke’s estate, Chatsworth, is believed to commemorate the signing of a marriage contract between Yale’s daughter, Anne, and James Cavendish. (The children and dancing master in the background may have been added later to represent their family.) This union between a nobleman and a merchant’s daughter was brokered by the immense fortune that Yale amassed during his time in India with the East India Company—a fortune symbolized here by his diamond ring. Yale’s prominent position in the composition suggests that he commissioned the painting. While archival sources reveal a great deal about Yale, the second Duke, and his brother, they tell us little about the young boy who serves them. We can fairly assume that he came to England on a slave ship. His proximity to the Duke suggests that he is a member of the Devonshire household. This cannot be confirmed, however, because servants’ registers from this period do not survive in the Chatsworth archive and records of Devonshire livery do not describe its appearance. Alternatively, it is possible that the boy is present here as Yale’s servant. There is no direct evidence that Yale personally owned slaves, though another portrait, now in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, shows him with an enslaved servant. From 1687 to 1699, Yale served as governor of the East India Company’s settlement at Fort St. George, Madras (now Chennai). During that time, he oversaw the company’s slave trading activities, records of which survive in archives in Chennai. In the absence of documentary evidence about him, we need to find other ways to imagine this boy’s history—a history which, much like Elihu Yale’s own, was shaped by Britain’s imperial expansion and the transatlantic slave trade. Although he has not traditionally been understood as one of the painting’s sitters, this exhibition asks us to consider him as such.
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Link to This Record
People Represented or Subject • Yale, Elihu (1649–1721), merchant and administrator in India and benefactor
• Cavendish, Lord James (d. 1741), British soldier and politician
• Tunstal, Mr., lawyer
• Cavendish, William, second duke of Devonshire (1670/71–1729), politician and art collector
Subject Terms boy | candle | children | column (architectural element) | conversation piece | diamond | discussions | drinking | drinking glasses | duke | feast | food | group portrait | landscape | men | page | pen | pipes (smoking equipment) | portrait | ring | slave | smoking | snuff boxes | spectators | sword | wigs | wine | writing (processes)
Place Represented Devonshire | England | Europe | United Kingdom

Ellen G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis & his contemporaries, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1980, pp. 4, 67, cat. no. 45, fig. 1, NJ18 D5151 D64 OVERSIZE

The Image of the Black in Western Art : From the " Age of Discovery" to the Age of Abolition, , vol. 3, part 3, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2010, pp. 139-41, fig. 130, N8232 +.I42 2010 Vol. 3,Part 3 Oversize (YCBA) , Citations are to Vol. 3, Part 3

Marcia R. Pointon, Portrayal and the search for identity, Reaktion Books, London, 2013, pp. 48-50. 53-55,69-70, illus. 7, N7575 .P6452 2013 (YCBA)

Diana Scarisbrick, Elihu Yale : merchant, collector & patron, Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 54, 55, fig. 18, DA497.Y3 S37 2014 (YCBA)

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. 10, 11. 41, V 2556 (YCBA)

Elihu Yale, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, Bulletin 2012, Yale University Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 38, 39, 59, fig. 4, ND1314.3 .E55 2012 (YCBA)

Jonathan Holloway, Commentary on a Group Portrait featuring Elihu Yale by an unknown artist, [ Website ], Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 11 30 15, 21:00 minutes, Available Online ,

Daniel Roza, Commentary on a Group Portrait featuring Elihu Yale by an unknown artist, [ Website ], Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 11 30 2015, 4:26 minutes, Available Online ,

Romita Ray, Commentary on a Group Portrait featuring Elihu Yale by an unknown artist, [ Website ], Accessed 11 30 2015, 32:42 minutes, Available Online ,

Jonathan Holloway, Commentary on Portrait of a Family by William Hogarth, [ Website ], Yale Center for British Art, Accessed 11 30 2015, scattered comments and references, Available Online ,

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