The Dutch ‘Golden Age’- the 17th century – is generally spoken of and written about as a time of prosperity, grandeur, and pride. Its citizens enjoyed wealth beyond compare, illustrated in some of the finest portraits in history by esteemed artists such as Rembrandt, Hals and van der Helst. The reason for the wealth of the Dutch Republic is often described in hazy terms, with words like ‘naval strength’, ‘trade dominance’ and ‘mercantile control’ flying around as freely as the flags on … Continue reading Rethinking the ‘Dutch Golden Age’
Robert Burns (1759–1796), the celebrated ploughman poet, is lauded for the humour and earthy realism of his poems that raised the status of the Scots dialect and showed new respect for the rural poor in Scotland. He is a Scottish cultural icon and a national obsession. Many public monuments were erected in his honour in the nineteenth century, often through public subscription, with vast crowds … Continue reading Robert Burns and Jamaica
Among the many paintings in Glasgow Museums’ collection is a portrait by Andrew Geddes, of his friend, Alexander Oswald. Oswald was an advocate, or barrister, and landowner, and born into the Oswald family dynasty of merchants, MPs and propertied gentlemen. The Oswalds had been established in Glasgow as colonial merchants and ship owners since the early 1700s and owned numerous estates including Scotstoun, Shieldhall, Moore … Continue reading Inheritance and Privilege – Alexander Oswald of Changue
The Burrell Collection includes a chair with a large decorative crest, carved with the coat of arms of the Cann family of Bristol, with the date ‘1699’ inscribed into the rails of the chair. The Cann family amassed their wealth from plantations they owned in the Caribbean. Sir Robert Cann, 1st Baronet of Compton Greenfield (1622-1685), was a prominent merchant in Bristol and served as … Continue reading A Seat of Power
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
In 1776, John Foreman set sail from Greenock to buy cotton in Tobago to send back to Scotland. He was a merchant born in Scoonie, Fife, in 1740. Three letters written by him were donated to the Mitchell Library in 1934. These give an insight into Scottish trade with the West Indies at that time. On 28 November 1776, the day of his departure from … Continue reading Letters from Tobago
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
One of the earliest ship models to enter the collection of Glasgow Museums was a fine model of HMS Oxford, made around 1727. It came from the collection of Robert Napier, known as the ‘father of Clyde shipbuilding’ and was presented shortly after his death in 1876 as an example of early naval ship design. However, beneath the beauty and intricacy of this model lies … Continue reading The Navy and Slavery
In 1705, the Glaswegian businessman, John ‘Bass’ Spreull published an account of Scotland’s prospects for international trade. He suggested that Scotland should make appropriate trade links with the West Indies, Virginia, the Guinea coast and what he called the ‘Negroes Coast’, by which he probably meant West African countries such as Senegal where European countries had established a slave trade. Spreull promoted a trade of … Continue reading The earliest enslaved person in Glasgow?
Many objects in Glasgow Museums’ collection bear witness to Scots’ participation in slavery during the 1700-1800s. A copy of the Grenada Free Press and Public Gazette, published on 27 August 1828, is one such example. The pages are faded and yellow now, but the words printed on the back page speak loud and clear. Among adverts for handkerchiefs, crackers, socks, candles, hams and horses, two … Continue reading A Free Press but not a Free People
Polygraphs was an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) that explored truth, fiction and evidence in a complex world. The show was drawn from Glasgow Museums’ collection and included artists who interrogate dominant historical narratives such as our relationship to the arms trade, colonialism and the slave trade. In terms of Glasgow’s relationship to the slave trade we included works by Beth Forde, an … Continue reading Contemporary Art and Slavery
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?