This portrait is remarkable because of who painted it. The artist is Prince Demah Barnes who was enslaved in Massachusetts. This and other works by the same artist are the only surviving fine art created by an enslaved person from colonial America.

Prince Demah’s remarkable story is movingly told in the Memory Place podcast episode: A Portrait (Met Residency Episode 4)

Listening to the podcast episode, I had a moment of confusion when I realized that Prince Demah was from Boston. The history we are taught often glosses over that slavery was legal in the Northern colonies as well. I looked up when slavery ended in Massachusetts: A 1783 decision by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ended slavery in the state.

New York

Portrait of William Duguid


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