This charming dress represents not only a product of enslaved labour, but also the wealth of those involved in the slavery economy and their extended families. The gown is made from muslin, a finely woven cotton cloth, and has been delicately embroidered in white cotton thread with wheat ears motifs worked in satin stitch. The silhouette, with its wide collar, gigot sleeves and frill skirt … Continue reading Ann Stirling’s Dress
This stunning tapestry in the Burrell Collection with its long-necked camels allows us to take a long view and look at the origins of the transatlantic slave trade. Woven in about 1500–30 probably in the workshop of Arnould Poissonnier in Tournai, Southern Netherlands, now Belgium, this tapestry is one of a group known collectively as the Voyage to Calicut. Each panel showed a scene from … Continue reading Voyages of Exploration and Exploitation
Glasgow Museums recently acquired the painting A Highland Chieftain: Portrait of Lord Mungo Murray (c.1683) by Scottish-trained artist John Michael Wright (1617–1694) with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund, Friends of Glasgow Museums and National Fund for Acquisitions. At face value it is an exuberant celebration of Highland dress and cosmopolitan Gaelic culture, but it also has links to the transatlantic slave trade. … Continue reading Mungo Murray, Darien and Slavery
In 1940 this portrait of Jean Duff, Lady Grant (1746-1805), painted by David Allan (1744-1796) in 1780 entered Glasgow Museums collections without any news coverage. The painting has been displayed in Kelvingrove since 2006 as an example of Scottish art and civility. The obituary written for her in 1805 praised her goodness and piety. She appears to have been as she appears in the painting … Continue reading Lady Jean Grant and Caribbean Slavery
The profits from Scottish-owned plantations in the West Indies that used enslaved men, women and children were returned to Scotland and invested in industries here rather than helping to develop their local Caribbean communities. One such area that profited was Glasgow’s burgeoning dye industry. Many purple dyes were traditionally made using lichen dyes which were much cheaper than the famous Tyrian or murex purple extracted … Continue reading Glasgow Merchants’ Investment in Purple
Turkey Red, a process of dying cotton a vibrant crimson, has an early history in Scotland that is tainted by its links to the transatlantic slave trade and its associated economy. The process was introduced to Glasgow in 1785 by George Macintosh and David Dale. Macintosh had previously established a cudbear dye works at Dunchattan, Glasgow, whilst Dale, who was involved in the cotton industry, … Continue reading Turkey Red and the Slave Economy
Glasgow Museums has some wonderful cotton dresses dating from the early nineteenth century. Fashion is often displayed in museums in terms of its aesthetics. Admired for its neoclassical elegance, the slim silhouette of the early 1800s is linked to ideals of reforms and new freedoms – whether from the political tyranny of the Ancien Régime after the French Revolution or the incorrectly-perceived physical constraints of late-1700s … Continue reading The Black History of White Cotton Dresses
What at first appears to be a charming piece of needlework actually reflects one of the darker sides of British history. This panel is made from linen embroidered in coloured silk and wool threads with cross, flame, satin and tent stitches – all relatively simple techniques suggesting that it was made by an amateur as a leisurely pastime. Against a fantastical background of flowering plants, … Continue reading A fashionable accessory?