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Freed slave

  • Object:

    Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Staffordshire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1833 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Moulded lead-glazed earthenware, painted in enamels

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Staffordshire Fund

  • Museum number:

    C.129-2003

  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 145, case 20, shelf 1

The spread of the Industrial Revolution throughout Britain in the early 19th century created a new middle class with money to spend on decorating their homes. Fine porcelain figures from the Meissen factory in Germany had been popular but expensive during the 18th century, and int the following century the Potteries in Staffordshire found a market for their cheaper earthenware figures. In a period when literacy levels were low and news hard to come by outside the main towns and cities, the figures became a form of visual literacy depicting key personalities of the day from politics, royalty, sport, literature and entertainment.

This figure was created to commemorate the 1833 Act of Parliament which ended slavery in the British Empire. Credit for ending British slavery was awarded to a small group of middle- and upper-class Christian humanitarians, led by William Wilberforce, and the active role played by many Africans in resisting slavery went largely unrecognised. Similarly, in contemporary depictions of slavery, slaves were often depicted as passive figures. This figure is typical in showing a black slave kneeling in gratitude, surrounded by his broken chains. His open book reads ‘BLESS GOD / THANK BRITON / ME NO SLAVE’.

Physical description

Moulded lead-glazed earthenware painted in enamel colours; figure of a freed slave shown unchained with arms raised and an open book on his knee, impressed "BLESS GOD / THANK BRITON / ME NO SLAVE"

Place of Origin

Staffordshire (made)

Date

ca. 1833 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Moulded lead-glazed earthenware, painted in enamels

Marks and inscriptions

'BLESS GOD / THANK BRITON / ME NO SLAVE'
Decoration; impressed; earthenware

Dimensions

Height: 17.5 cm

Descriptive line

Figure of a freed slave, moulded lead-glazed earthenware painted in enamel colours, England (Staffordshire), ca. 1833

Materials

Earthenware

Subjects depicted

Books; Slavery; Slaves; Men; Freedom

Categories

Ceramics; Earthenware; Figures & Decorative ceramics; Black History

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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