The Story of Edward Hill and the African Groom at Shirley Plantation

Fig. 1. Unknown artist, Edward Hill III, c. 1680s. Oil on canvas, 51 3/4 x 41 1/2 in. Shirley Plantation, LLC

I have looked at hundreds of colonial portraits, and the most intriguing figure that I have seen is unnamed, barely visible, only about five inches tall, and whose face is largely obscured. This figure is an African groom—who I can now argue is the first known representation of a person of African descent in a British North American painting. I first encountered the groom on a guided tour of Shirley Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia, in 2013. He appears in the portrait of Edward Hill III (fig. 1), at the time believed to be a postmortem portrait of his son, Edward Hill IV, painted in approximately 1706. The painting initially caught my attention because of its highly aristocratic, Baroque English style and use of a classical costume, an unusual feature of early colonial portraiture. The family history, relayed by the interpreter, also piqued my interest. Coming upon an early eighteenth century, postmortem, allegorical portrait featuring a possible African groom from Virginia? I was fascinated. In the painting, a young, round-faced boy with curly blond hair sits on a carved stone structure in a wooded landscape wearing an elaborate antique military costume, complete with a lion epaulet and jeweled Roman sandals. He engages the viewer’s attention and points with two fingers, directing the viewer’s gaze toward a clearing and figures in the distance. Nestled in front of a hill is a large, imaginary house featuring three chimneys, fretwork along the roof, and multiple wings. Just below his pointed fingers, in the middle ground, is a small figure of a groom leading a dark horse. They appear at the margin of the picture, as if preparing to leave the frame of the canvas. When I decided to write my dissertation on colonial Virginia portraiture, I knew I had to return to Shirley Plantation and learn more about this portrait. I am so glad that I did. As my subsequent research has demonstrated, this portrait dates as early as the 1680s and therefore represents Edward Hill III (d. 1726), rather than his son. Most significantly, the groom in the distance is of African descent.1

According to the family history, which is based heavily on oral tradition, as most of the family papers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were destroyed or lost, the portrait features Edward Hill IV (life dates unknown). He was the only documented son of Edward Hill III and his wife, Elizabeth Williams. Young Edward apparently died of consumption around 1706 at the age of sixteen, and as a result of his early death, Shirley Plantation passed into the ownership of his sister, Elizabeth Hill (d. 1771), who married John Carter in 1723. Edward Hill III and Elizabeth Williams Hill supposedly commissioned a postmortem portrait of their lost male heir in the early eighteenth century. The Hill Carter descendants believed that the English artist based the portrait on a preexisting miniature or engraving, but unfortunately, there is virtually no trace of Edward Hill IV in the archive, nor is there an extant miniature or other likeness of the subject. Marion Carter Oliver, family historian and longtime owner of Shirley, wrote down this oral history of the portrait in 1937.2

An 1846 Richmond Enquirer article conspicuously lists the portraits at Shirley as including two portraits of Edward Hill, “one taken in early youth.”3 In the twentieth century, Oliver transcribed this list of portraits and wrote “Full of Mistakes!” on it.4 The article did make at least one verifiable mistake: it identified Edward Hill III as the “founder of Shirley.” He was actually the third of his name to live at the site. While the author of the 1846 article only named the subject as “Edward Hill,” based on the context of the description and the existence of a second portrait long identified as Edward Hill III as an adult, and which stylistically dates to his adulthood in the early eighteenth century, the author was identifying Edward Hill III as the subject of both paintings. It seems likely that the identification of his son as the subject of the painting of the child in Roman costume originated in the mid- to late nineteenth century. By that time, the descendants were several generations removed from the portrait commission, and such misidentification of a collateral ancestor was far more likely to happen.

Absent seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Hill family papers, I turned to imperial and colonial government records and to the papers of contemporary Virginia families in an attempt to learn more about the Hills. The family was wealthy and politically well connected, and they therefore appear in official colony records. What little about the biographies of the three generations of Edward Hills in question—Edward Hill II (d. 1700), Edward Hill III (d. 1726), and Edward Hill IV (life dates unknown) that can be pieced together—also supports the identification of the boy in the portrait as Edward Hill III. His date of birth is unknown; however, records related to Bacon’s Rebellion document that in 1676 his mother was “bigg with child” and already had other young children, who were imprisoned along with their mother by Nathaniel Bacon’s rebel forces.5 While the fate of his siblings is unknown, it is likely that Edward Hill III was one of these children born in the 1670s, making him the right age in the 1680s to be painted as a youth. The subject of the painting has round cheeks and short curly hair, rather than an adult male wig, indicating that he was probably no older than sixteen. He also wears a costume over an unbuttoned white shirt. Allegorical costume was a popular late seventeenth-century English convention for children’s portraiture, as it evoked timelessness and supported dynastic family ambitions. Adult men also appeared in costume, although the state of undress tended to be reserved for women and children.6 Finally, the correspondence of the planter and trader William Byrd I records that Edward Hill II traveled to England in 1685, which provided at least one documented opportunity to have his son’s portrait painted.7

Stylistic elements of the Hill portrait also belie its traditional dating to the early eighteenth century. The fabrics and the boy’s hairstyle date the portrait closer to the 1680s. By 1700, the elaborate gold and silver brocade fabrics, patterned textiles, and metallic fringe seen in Hill’s garment gave way to solid, plain silks and simpler costumes in portraiture. Indeed, the Hill portrait looks similar to works by prominent artists painting in London in the 1680s, such as John Michael Wright (1617–1694) and Willem Wissing (1656–1687). For example, Wissing’s portrait of Edward Rich, Earl of Warwick (fig. 2) shows a young boy with curly hair dressed in an allegorical costume based on Roman military dress and seated in a forest landscape. Warwick adopts a pose very similar to that of Hill. Both boys sit turned three-quarters away from the viewer with one leg tucked behind the other, the front foot pointed toward the landscape. Their position directs the viewer’s attention to the scene beyond, with one hand gesturing explicitly with pointed fingers to a house in a distant clearing. The Warwick portrait features a country house similar to that appearing in the Hill portrait. While the artist of Edward Hill III is currently unknown, they were painting in a fashionable Baroque English style, probably inspired by portraits such as Wissing’s Earl of Warwick.

John Smith (engraver), Edward Cooper (publisher), after Willem Wissing, Edward Rich, 6th Earl of Warwick and 3rd Earl of Holland, 1684. Mezzotint, plate size 9 1/2 x 7 in. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG D11907

Circle of John Riley and John Closterman, William Byrd II in Roman Dress, c. 1680. Oil on canvas, 48 1/4 x 40 1/2 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mrs. Edmund Randolph Cocke in memory of George Byrd Harrison, M.D., 56.30. Photograph by Katherine Wetzel

Most striking is the existence of another Virginia portrait featuring William Byrd II (1674–1744) (fig. 3).8 Dating to about 1680, when the subject was sent to England for school, this portrait of Hill III’s contemporary also features a young boy wearing an antique Roman military costume. The Hill and Byrd families were well acquainted and occasional business partners. Like young William Byrd II, Edward Hill III may have been painted when he was sent to school in England. Although Hill’s school records are unlocated, many wealthy Virginians sent their children abroad for education. Together, these two portraits support similar dates of creation and suggest a possible taste among late seventeenth-century elite planters to commission allegorical portraits.

In the Hill portrait, the origin of the groom in the distance, who appears to be African, was an intriguing and important mystery, for the painting has been damaged and repaired over the years and was conserved in 2012 (fig. 4). As would be expected from a portrait hanging in a Southern home for more than three hundred years, the painting exhibited multiple layers of varnish, areas of overpaint, evidence of small holes and scratches, paint loss in certain areas, and substantial crackling over the canvas. Remarkably, although the areas of the horse’s muzzle and around the hooves were damaged, the figure of the groom remained in relatively decent condition.9 While it is possible that the figure’s paint has darkened over the years due to varnish and dirt, perhaps the most telling visual evidence for identifying the groom as an African figure is his hairline, which is tightly cropped. European men, including grooms and other attendants, typically have longer hair in seventeenth-century paintings, while African figures, when not wearing turbans, are almost universally painted with short, tightly curled hair. In seventeenth-century England, African attendants were most frequently pictured in portraits of women and children, although grooms were occasionally represented in military portraits, as in Sir Godfrey Kneller’s Frederick Herman de Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg (fig. 5). The depiction of an African groom in the Hill portrait was therefore not without precedent.

Fig 4. Unknown artist, Edward Hill III, c. 1680s (detail of groom and horse from fig.1). Shirley Plantation, LLC

Fig. 5. John Smith after Sir Godfrey Kneller, Frederick Herman de Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg, c. 1689. Mezzotint, plate: 15 x 10 1/4 in. National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG D1338

Additional circumstantial evidence that the groom in the Hill portrait is African is found in the striking resemblance of the horse and groom to figures of a Turkish horse with an African groom in a series of paintings copied from prints by Abraham van Diepenbeck (fig. 6). The original printed images were illustrations for a book by William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, La Methode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux, printed in Antwerp in 1658. Diepenbeck created a series of six horse and groom images, among other illustrations, to accompany Cavendish’s text on horsemanship. At least two British paintings, one at Welbeck Abbey, the English estate of Cavendish, and one currently at Wimpole House (but not original to it), show the Duke of Newcastle’s prestigious manège horses. Both of these paintings, dating to about 1665 to 1675, feature grooms and horses from the Diepenbeck book illustrations.10 The Turkish horse with the African groom appears in the far left of both paintings, practically walking off the canvas, just as in the Hill portrait. Moreover, the Hill groom wears a costume of a tunic and belt identical to those in the British paintings, and it even appears to be rendered in the same golden color as the African groom leading the Turkish horse. Additionally, the position of this groom in both the Diepenbeck images, a step in front of the horse and toward the bottom of the picture, is the same as in the Hill portrait, as are the poses of the groom’s feet and tilt of his head toward the horse so that he appears almost in profile. The gait of the horse and the position of the reins in the paintings are also the same in all of these examples. The only apparent difference between the Diepenbeck images and the Hill portrait is the color of the groom’s belt and leggings, but the darkened colors in the Hill portrait could also be the result of dirt accumulation and discoloration over the years. Since the Hill painting was completed in England, it is likely that the portraitist drew inspiration from these or related paintings and prints of the African groom with the Turkish horse.

Fig. 6. Probably A. Sijmons after Abraham van Diepenbeck, Six of the Duke of Newcastle’s Manège Horses, c. 1670. Oil on canvas, 44 x 49 in. Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire. National Trust

The African groom would not be a recognizable individual to the audiences at Shirley Plantation, and therefore it contributed to the objectification of the African figure. It is possible that Edward Hill II and the artist chose to include a stock image of an African instead of representing an individual enslaved by the Hill family simply because Hill and his son did not travel to England with an enslaved attendant and therefore had to rely on an image of a groom that already existed in visual culture. It also may have been a purposeful decision to render the African groom as a depersonalized symbol of wealth and status rather than as an individual. Regardless, by placing a stock groom without distinguishing features in the distance, the portrait visualizes a clear social hierarchy between the white subject and the African attendant.

The African groom’s unusual placement in the distance of the Hill painting is a subtle but important departure from English precedent. If the Hills were simply following English portrait practices, the African figure would be in a more prominent position within the composition of Edward Hill III. Typically, English portraits that include an enslaved attendant place the Black figure directly next to the white figure in the composition in order to show them off. The Black figure usually looks at the white subject, directing the viewer’s gaze to the primary sitter and highlighting the attendant’s subservient position within the portrait and society at large, as in the Duke of Schomberg. The two figures interact in some manner that reinforces the attendant’s servitude. The prominent presence of an enslaved figure also underscores the wealth and access to luxury goods of the white subject. Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of their skin colors enhances the whiteness of the primary subject, emphasizing their differences and presenting them as opposites.11 An African figure’s ability to display the white subject’s wealth and whiteness is most effective when placed in a conspicuous position. The distant placement of the African groom in Edward Hill III was therefore an intriguing choice.

The departure from English practice suggests that elite colonists were uncomfortable with the realities of plantation slavery by the 1680s. The groom’s placement in the landscape near the house is a visual association with property that is a reminder of the developing social order in Virginia. The choice of a groom, a personal attendant that did both domestic and agrarian labor, acting as a manservant while caring for horses, associates the Black body with land, animals, and both household and agricultural labor. Enslaved Africans were generally forced to labor in agricultural rather than domestic settings in order to maximize tobacco profits. Only the wealthiest planters could afford specialized, domestic enslaved labor. This reality may have contributed to the groom’s distance; that he was a specialized attendant would have signaled the Hill family’s wealth and elite status in Virginia.

More importantly, the groom’s distance disavowed the intimacy that existed on Virginia plantations where enslaved Africans lived and labored in close proximity to the planter families. Unlike in English portraits, this colonial painting does not allow the Black figure to come too close to the white subject. William Byrd I expressed the Virginia elite’s discomfort with the realities of plantation life in 1684/5. Sending his daughter, Ursula “Nutty” Byrd, to live in England, Byrd wrote to his father-in-law, “My wife hath all this year urged me to send little Nutty home to you, to which I have at last condescended . . . I must confesse shee could learne nothing good here, in a great family of Negro’s.”12 Byrd’s letter reveals the anxiety over cultural degeneration experienced by Anglo-Virginians who found themselves surrounded by increasing numbers of nonwhite people. While the Hill family’s wealth is still emphasized in Edward Hill III by the boy’s costume, the house, and the groom, the groom’s appearance in the portrait is minimized; yet, Hill points directly at the figure and the horse, ensuring that the viewer sees them in the distance. The portrait, like slavery itself, is full of contradictions.

The appearance of the African groom in Edward Hill III during the 1680s is incredibly important. As historians have argued, late seventeenth-century Virginia saw the rapid growth of the African slave trade and, in the decades that followed, the racialization of slavery. Wealthy individuals in Virginia controlled the importation and sale of enslaved people during this period. Edward Hill II was involved in the African slave trade in the 1680s and 1690s as part of a consortium of elite planters using their mercantile connections and ships to import enslaved people from Africa and the Caribbean directly to their personal landings on the James River. The Hills also received black headrights for land; that is, patented land grants based on the number of enslaved Africans imported.13 The inclusion of the African groom in the portrait of Hill II’s son speaks to his and his peers’ investment in African slavery as they increasingly purchased enslaved Africans, financed the trade, and turned away from indentured English servants.

The well-known Justus Engelhardt Kühn portrait of Henry Darnall III of Maryland (c. 1710; Maryland Historical Society) was previously believed to be the earliest known African figure in a portrait produced for the British North American colonies. Edward Hill III, which was painted in England, predates Henry Darnall III by up to thirty years. The paucity of colonial paintings that include images of enslaved people makes each example important evidence and adds to our understanding not only of the iconography of colonial slavery but of slavery itself. As colonists grappled with how to represent slavery when confronted with its realities, their conscious pictorial choices provide insight into how they were actively constructing racial relationships and slavery.

As scholarship on the relationship between slavery, art, and material culture continues to grow, the portrait of Edward Hill III is a reminder that there is still much work to be done and new discoveries to make. Early Virginian art has long been neglected in art-historical scholarship.14 The focus on Northern colonies and the occasional interest in Charleston and Maryland has overshadowed Virginia in the historiography. Virginia’s political importance in the colonial period and its centrality to understanding the development of slavery in British North America should be further examined in relation to its artistic productions. The story of the Hill portrait also prompts historians of American art to investigate the transatlantic and British imperial nature of art in early America. After all, the-still unfolding story of the Hill portrait includes two transatlantic journeys and people on both sides of the Atlantic. Edward Hill II and Edward Hill III, the Virginia-born planter and his son, traveled to England, commissioned the expensive portrait from an artist’s studio, probably in London, and requested the inclusion of an African groom. Then Hill brought the portrait back to Shirley Plantation, his Virginia home, where he enslaved, imported, and sold African people and where enslaved laborers harvested tobacco that produced the family’s wealth. The portrait continues to hang there today, more than three hundred years later. Although it is an English portrait, it was also colonial, as it was commissioned by a colonist and intended for colonial audiences—audiences that included both settler colonial families and enslaved people.

Cite this article: Janine Yorimoto Boldt, “The Story of Edward Hill and the African Groom at Shirley Plantation,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 6, no. 2 (Fall 2020), https://doi.org/10.24926/24716839.10627.

PDF: Boldt, The Story of Edward Hill

Notes

  1. I sincerely thank the Hill Carter family and the staff of Shirley Plantation for sharing their family history with me, granting me access to their portrait collection, and assisting with and supporting my research. The house is partially open to the public but remains in possession of the Hill Carter family, members who have lived on-site since 1638. For more on the Shirley Plantation, see http://www.shirleyplantation.com.
  2. Notes about the Shirley Portraits in the Shirley Plantation Notebook of Robert R. Carter made by Marion Carter Oliver in 1937, and the Marion Carter Notebook, July 1942, Shirley Plantation Collection, University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. The remaining Hill Carter Family papers mostly date to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is unclear exactly why Oliver chose to write the history down in 1937, though she was particularly interested in genealogy and corresponded with a number of relatives regarding familial histories. The Shirley Plantation Collection was acquired by the University of Virginia in 2018. I viewed the collection when it was held in stewardship by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Rockefeller Library in 2016.
  3. “Portraits at Shirley,” Richmond Enquirer 42, no. 98 (April 10, 1846): 1.
  4. Marion Carter Oliver, “COPIED FROM RICHMOND ENQUIRER, Richmond, VA., April 10, 1846,” Shirley Plantation Collection.
  5. “Defense of Col. Edward Hill,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 3, no. 3 (1896): 250; see also “Charles City Grievances 1676,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 3, no. 2 (1895): 158. The identity of Edward Hill II’s wife in 1676 is uncertain. It is possible that her name was Elizabeth and she was the daughter of the Elizabeth Howe of London who left bequests in April/May 1677 to her daughter Elizabeth, son-in-law Edward Hill “now of Virginia,” and their three daughters named Elizabeth, Henrietta Maria, and Sara. If so, their son, Edward Hill, was likely born in 1677 or later, since he was not named in the will. See “Virginia Gleanings in England (Continued),” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 14, no. 2 (1906): 171.
  6. On costumes in portraiture, see Diana de Marly, “The Establishment of Roman Dress in Seventeenth-Century Portraiture,” Burlington Magazine 117, no. 868 (1975): 443–71; Aileen Ribiero, Fashion and Fiction: Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005); and Andrew Wilton, The Swagger Portrait: Grand Manner Portraiture in Britain from Van Dyck to Augustus John, 1630–1930 (London: Tate Gallery, 1992), 25–35. On children’s portraiture and dynastic politics in seventeenth-century England, see Catriona Murray, Imaging Stuart Family Politics: Dynastic Crisis and Continuity (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2016).
  7. Edward Hill II carried tokens, or gifts, to William Byrd I’s agents in London. William Byrd I to Robert Coe, June 5, 1685, and Byrd to Thomas Gower, June 8, 1685, in Marion Tinling, ed., The Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover, Virginia, 1684–1776 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1977), 41, 43.
  8. See Mary Willing Byrd, “The Will of Mrs. Mary Willing Byrd, of Westover, 1813, with a List of the Westover Portraits,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 6, no. 4 (April 1899): 345–58. For the 1826 inventory of Byrd family portraits, see “The Portraits at Lower Brandon, and Upper Brandon, Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly 10, no. 4, 2nd series (October 1930): 338–40. This portrait, called William Byrd II in Roman Dress, was formerly identified by family tradition as William Byrd I (1652–1704). Like the Hill portrait, the family tradition appears to date to the nineteenth century. The portrait was not identified in documents as William Byrd I until 1826. Other scholars have questioned the sitter identification of the Byrd portrait. My research confirms that the portrait actually represents the son, William Byrd II (1674–1744). The 1813 will of the subject’s daughter-in-law, Mary Willing Byrd (Mrs. William Byrd III), recorded three portraits of William Byrd II hanging at the family’s Westover Plantation. One features the subject as an adult by the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller (c. 1704; Colonial Williamsburg Foundation); another is presumed missing; and I believe that this portrait of him as a youth is the third. No portrait of William Byrd I was mentioned in Mary Willing Byrd’s will, which listed other family portraits and divided them among her heirs. If this portrait was William Byrd I, it was removed from Westover before 1813 and then reunited with other family portraits before 1826, which is unlikely. The portrait of the Byrd child wearing Roman dress descended with other Westover portraits clearly identified in Mary Willing Byrd’s will to Evelyn Byrd Harrison (Mrs. Benjamin Harrison) of Brandon Plantation, which later split into Lower and Upper Brandon. Moreover, the 1826 list of portraits at Upper and Lower Brandon Plantations that first identified the portrait as “the first Colonel Byrd” included the note that “the family believe . . . . that this is a picture, not of the 1st Col. Byrd, but of an ancestor who never came to America.” There was clearly disagreement over the subject of the painting. My research also suggests that the portrait was painted by an artist associated with the late seventeenth-century studio of the artists John Closterman (1660–1711) and John Riley (1646–1691), based on similarities of the dog and dog collar that appear in the Byrd portrait and in John Poulett, 1st Earl Poulett (c. 1680; Yale Center for British Art) and Boy of the Montagu Family (c. 1685; Buccleuch Collection). The Poulett portrait is attributed to John Closterman, and the Montagu portrait is attributed to John Closterman and John Riley, who shared a studio. Neither of these portraits appear to have been published as a print; therefore, the artist of the Byrd portrait had access to these or other paintings from this studio in order to render the dog with the exact coloring, pose, and collar details that appear in the Closterman/Riley portraits. William Byrd I was too old to be the subject of a painting dated to the 1680s. William Byrd II, however, was sent to England between 1676 and 1681 and was six years old in 1680. David Meschutt also suggested that the portrait “appears to be a generation later than that of William I’s childhood,” in David Meschutt, “William Byrd and His Portrait Collection,” MESDA Journal 14, no. 1 (May 1988): 46. For attributions of the Poulett and Montagu portraits, see Malcolm Rogers, “John and John Baptist Closterman: A Catalogue of Their Works,” Walpole Society 49 (1983): 224–79, Poulett portrait, 256; and T. V. Murdoch, Boughton House: The English Versailles (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), 181. See also the Yale Center for British Art object record for John Poulett, 1st Earl Poulett, at https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1665542. For a longer discussion of the sitter identification and artist attribution of this portrait, see Janine Yorimoto Boldt, “The Art of Plantation Authority: Domestic Portraiture in Colonial Virginia” (PhD diss., College of William & Mary, 2018), 45–52.
  9. Unpublished conservation report (2012), Shirley Plantation.
  10. Natalie Patel, The Harley Gallery at Welbeck Abbey, to the author, May 24, 2016. See also Richard W. Goulding, Catalogue of the Pictures Belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, K.G. at Welbeck Abbey, 17 Hill Street, London, and Langwell House (Cambridge, UK: University Press, 1936), 279–80.
  11. Many scholars have written about the role of enslaved African attendants in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century English and European portraiture. See, for example, Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 211–53; Catherine Molineux, Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012), 18–60; Elise Goodman, “Woman’s Supremacy over Nature: Van Dyck’s Portrait of Elena Grimaldi,Artibus et Historiae 15, no. 30 (1994): 129–43; Anne Lafont, “How Skin Color Became a Racial Marker: Art Historical Perspectives of Race,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 51, no. 1 (2017): 89–113; David Bindman, “Subjectivity and Slavery in Portraiture: From Courtly to Commercial Societies,” in Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic World, ed. Agnes I. Lugo-Ortiz and Angela Rosenthal (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 71–87; and David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, eds., The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 3, From the “Age of Discovery” to the Age of Abolition: Part I: Artists of the Renaissance and Baroque (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in association with the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research and the Menil Collection, 2010). Relatively few scholars have discussed images of enslaved people in colonial British portraiture at length. In general, enslaved figures in colonial portraits are assumed to function the same they do in English portraits. See Albert Boime, The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990); Ellwood Parry, The Image of the Indian and the Black Man in American Art, 1590–1900 (New York: G. Braziller, 1974); and Simon Gikandi, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).
  12. William Byrd I to Warham Horsmanden, March 31, 1684/5, in Tinling, Correspondence of the Three William Byrds, 32.
  13. On slavery in Virginia, see, for example, Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton, 1975); Anthony S. Parent, Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660–1740 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), for Hill’s headright patents, 272; and John C. Coombs, “The Phases of Conversion: A New Chronology for the Rise of Slavery in Early Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly 68, no. 3 (2011): 331–60, for Hill’s participation in the slave trade, 352–53.
  14. Carolyn J. Weekley’s recent study of early Southern art includes information about artists working in early Virginia; see Painters and Paintings in the Early American South (New Haven: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in association with Yale University Press, 2013). The other major study to discuss colonial Virginia portraiture is Wayne Craven, Colonial American Portraiture: The Economic, Religious, Social, Cultural, Philosophical, Scientific, and Aesthetic Foundations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986). For why Southern art is often overlooked by historians of American art, see Maurie D. McInnis, “Little of Artistic Merit? The Problem and Promise of Southern Art History,” American Art 10, no. 2 (Summer 2005): 11–18.

About the Author(s): Janine Yorimoto Boldt is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum