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Henry Fuseli RA, The Negro Revenged

The Negro Revenged, 1 March 1807

After Henry Fuseli RA (1741 - 1825)

RA Collection: Art

This object title contains language that may be upsetting and offensive. We have kept the original wording to preserve its historical significance and, where possible, we are in the process of providing additional information to contextualise the object's content, production and meaning in the society in which it was created. We continuously work to improve the documentation and presentation of our online Collections. If you have any comments or additional information about this – or another – object, please contact us at library@royalacademy.org.uk.

Raimbach's engraving reproduces a composition by Henry Fuseli RA which illustrates a poem by William Cowper entitled 'The Negro's Complaint'. The image was published in Poems by William Cowper, 1808. The poem, composed in 1788, is written from the perspective of an enslaved African and became very popular in Britain especially among supporters of abolition. The stanza of the ballad illustrated by Fuseli describes extreme weather conditions and natural disasters around Britain as a form of divine retribution for the country's involvement in the slave trade.

Below the image, lines from the poem are reproduced:

‘Hark – he answers. Wild tornadoes / Strewing yonder sea with wrecks, / Wasting Towns, Plantations, Meadows, / Are the voice in which he speaks.’

Fuseli illustrated this by depicting a Black couple standing on a cliff top, both looking towards the sea where lightning illuminates the hull of a wrecked slave ship. Both of the man's fists are clenched in a gesture of triumph while the woman holds up her right hand with index finger raised as if in warning.

The word ‘Negro’ was used historically to describe people of Black African heritage. Since the 1960s however, it has fallen from usage and today can be considered highly offensive. The term is repeated here in its original historical context.

Object details

Title
The Negro Revenged
Artist/designer
After Henry Fuseli RA (1741 - 1825)
Engraved by
Abraham Raimbach (1776 - 1843)
Published by
Joseph Johnson (1738 - 1809)
From
Poems by William Cowper, London 1808, vol.I, facing p.375
Date
1 March 1807
Object type
Plate
Place of Publication
London
Medium
Etching and engraving
Dimensions

125 mm x 88 mm

Collection
Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
06/2288
This image is from a book

Poems of William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq. in two volumes - London: 1808

Click here to view the book

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