At the edge of the canvas

Artists routinely positioned black people at the edge of the canvas. This painting of Cassiobury Park is an example.

In this detail of the paintings, the black servant can just be seen at the bottom right.
Cassiobury Park by John Wootton, c1748

A significant number of paintings of black people in the eighteenth century show them as servants, such as this painting of a view of Cassiobury Park by John Wootton in around 1748. It depicts Cassiobury House and Park and the third Earl of Essex, his family, friends and servants.

In the bottom left hand corner of the picture below is a black servant. Could this have been Othello, a negro formerly called Donas, servant to the Earl of Essex, baptised at ‘Cashiobury’ in 1730?

Artists frequently placed black servants on the edge of the painting, gazing in awe at their masters and mistresses.

Now on permanent display at Watford Museum, this painting is the first known image of Watford’s Black History. With support from the National Art Collections Fund, Resource/V&A Purchase Fund, The Otto Brookman Bequest, Capital Shopping Centres Ltd (The Harlequin Centre), The Friends of Watford Museum, The Friends of Cassiobury Park, Lord Evans of Watford, Ann Wayne, Malcolm & Sheila Jones, Ellie & Alan Burtenshaw, Roy Stockdill, and anonymous donation, the painting was bought at auction in New York in December 2002.

This painting was purchased by Watford Museum with assistance from The Art Fund.
This painting was purchased by Watford Museum with assistance from The Art Fund.

This page was added on 29/08/2006.

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