Portrait of Francis Barber thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case TOPIC, Shelf 4

Portrait of Francis Barber

Watercolour
ca. 1785 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Henry Edridge was a landscape artist and portraitist who brought the delicacy of the miniature to his paintings of people. He drew his subject in soft lead pencil before applying watercolour in the miniaturist’s technique of stippling, focussed on the face and hands, with some washes or body colour to indicate dress and drapery. Edridge attended the Royal Academy Schools from 1784 where he made a number of copies of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

This watercolour of Francis Barber is a copy of an original painting by Reynolds. Barber was born a slave in Jamaica. He was brought to England by Richard Bathurst whose son (of the same name) was a friend of Samuel Johnson. When Bathurst died, Barber was freed by the terms of his will and, following the death of Bathurst’s wife, was placed in the service of Johnson. Barber became Johnson’s secretary and valet and was much valued by Johnson who paid for his education and, on his death, made Barber his principal heir.

The painting provides a rare example of a black man being given the weight and dignity of a white sitter and Barber is depicted with great sensitivity. This is all the more significant given that the original version was probably painted in the 1770s, when the transatlantic slave trade was still in operation.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Watercolour portrait of Francis Barber by Henry Edridge after Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Physical Description
Watercolour portrait of Francis Barber, Dr. Johnson's servant. His face is depicted in detail against the background of a clouded sky. The body and clothing are indicated with simple brushstrokes.
Dimensions
  • Unmounted height: 17cm
  • Unmounted width: 14.5cm
Marks and Inscriptions
Handwritten on reverse: 'H. Edridge. From a picture by Sir J. Reynold, in the Collecion of Sir G. Beaumont.'
Subject depicted
Summary
Henry Edridge was a landscape artist and portraitist who brought the delicacy of the miniature to his paintings of people. He drew his subject in soft lead pencil before applying watercolour in the miniaturist’s technique of stippling, focussed on the face and hands, with some washes or body colour to indicate dress and drapery. Edridge attended the Royal Academy Schools from 1784 where he made a number of copies of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds.



This watercolour of Francis Barber is a copy of an original painting by Reynolds. Barber was born a slave in Jamaica. He was brought to England by Richard Bathurst whose son (of the same name) was a friend of Samuel Johnson. When Bathurst died, Barber was freed by the terms of his will and, following the death of Bathurst’s wife, was placed in the service of Johnson. Barber became Johnson’s secretary and valet and was much valued by Johnson who paid for his education and, on his death, made Barber his principal heir.



The painting provides a rare example of a black man being given the weight and dignity of a white sitter and Barber is depicted with great sensitivity. This is all the more significant given that the original version was probably painted in the 1770s, when the transatlantic slave trade was still in operation.
Collection
Accession Number
2941-1876

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record createdJune 27, 2007
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