Manner of Sir Joshua Reynolds
A Young Black (?Francis Barber) date not known

Artwork details

Manner of Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723–1792
A Young Black (?Francis Barber)
Date Date not known
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 756 x 879 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Alan Evans 1974
Not on display

Display caption

This is a version of an unfinished picture now in the Menil Foundation Collection, Houston. The existence of many versions of this work can be explained by the fact that Sir Joshua Reynolds encouraged his students to copy it. The sitter is thought to be Francis (Frank) Barber, the servant of Dr Johnson. Johnson held Barber in high esteem, flouting convention by educating him and making him his principal heir. Here, Reynolds has dignified the sitter, posing him in the manner usually preserved for an aristocratic white man. The original version was probably painted in the 1770s, a period at which the slave trade was still in operation in America and Europe's colonies.

December 1999

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