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Print - Family of Negro Slaves from Loango
  • Family of Negro Slaves from Loango
    Blake, William, born 1757 - died 1827
  • Enlarge image

Family of Negro Slaves from Loango

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1796 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Blake, William, born 1757 - died 1827 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraving and etching

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf 4

The Dutch captured the British colony of Suriname during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1667). Under the West India Company it was developed as a plantation slave society and became a primary destination for the Dutch slave trade. The brutal regime caused high mortality; despite the import of 300,000 slaves between 1668 and 1823, the population never grew beyond 50,000. ‘Maroonage’ became the major form of resistance. Fugitive slaves, or ‘maroons’, escaped inland to form permanent communities from where they waged a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Dutch.

In 1774 the Scottish-Dutch soldier John Gabriel Stedman witnessed the brutal oppression of slaves during a campaign against the maroons, which he described in his Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam. The book, which included illustrations by William Blake, was adopted by thosw who advocated the abolition of the slave trade, though Stedman was thought to support reform rather than abolition. This image reflects Stedman’s ambivalence towards slavery by offering the reader the possibility of a slave family in a ‘state of tranquil happiness, which they always enjoy under a humane and indulgent master’.

Physical description

Print depicting a black family. A man carries a basket of small fishes on his head and holds a big one in his right hand. A pregnant woman carries fruit on her head, a baby on her back and has a small child at her heels. She is smoking a pipe and holds a spindle at the same time.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (probably, made)


1796 (made)


Blake, William, born 1757 - died 1827 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Engraving and etching

Marks and inscriptions

Bottom right:
Blake Sculpt.


Height: 19.4 cm, Width: 14.3 cm

Descriptive line

'Family of Negro Slaves from Loango', print by William Blake, 1796

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Slavery in America website, http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/scripts/sia/gallery.cgi?term=&collection=slavetrade&index=12, accessed 8 September 2006
NB: The term ‘negro’ was used historically to describe people of black (sub-Saharan) African heritage but, since the 1960s, has fallen from usage and, increasingly, is considered offensive. The term is repeated here in its original historical context.

Subjects depicted

Children; Pipe; Baskets; Spindle; Fishes; Slaves


Black History; Slavery & Abolitionism; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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