Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

This Thing I Saw Today

September 3, 2010 · No Comments

The National Portrait Gallery includes prominent figures in UK history, from great thinkers, philosophers and inventors, to sailors, pirates and conquerors. I only was able to view a small portion of the museum, beginning with the Tudors and ending at the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. This painting featured a group of 500 legislators gathered in an assembly hall. The scene depicted was Thomas Clarkson addressing the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, with the hope of abolishing slavery worldwide. The only figure standing is  Clarkson, with his arm and forefinger held high and a countenance expressing concern, passion and a certain weariness, emotions symbolic of his lifelong struggle to see the end of slavery in the civilized world. To his left, his wife, Mary, and son, Thomas Jr. anxiously witness the culmination of Clarkson’s work.

In the foreground of the portrait sits Henry Beckford, an emancipated slave and delegate from Jamaica. What is of particular interest to me in this portrait, (besides it’s relevance to the movie ‘Amazing Grace,’ which I thought was pretty sick) is the dignity with which Beckford is treated. One delegate is putting his hand on Beckford’s arm and another, William Allen, gazes directly at him, although Clarkson is the one who is speaking. The respect that the other men in the portrait feel for is readily apparant from their expressions and body language. Beckford is surrounded by Europeans but seemingly treated as an equal, with all parties striving toward the same end.

Also, if one checks the link, there are some inexplicably big ass books at the bottom.

(Courtesy of NPG.org, the official website of the National Portrait Gallery)

Categories: 2010 Michael · Museums · Uncategorized

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