Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On
Joseph Mallord William Turner
oil on canvas
36 X 48 in.
Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, Massachusetts
[Jeanne Baret Dubernat footnotes:]
I began my floral interpretation/art history survey with this painting. I needed more visual representations of Jeanne's life and began searching for maritime paintings of ships and discovered the Zong and its horrific history.
William Turner’s 1840 painting depicts the massacre aboard this British slave ship. In 1781 more than 130 enslaved African people were killed by the Zong's captain and crew. Seems the owners had insured the Africans as cargo, and they were worth more dead, than alive. Turner had read about the account in Thomas Clarkson’s The History and Abolition of the Slave Trade, second edition published in 1839.
The painting was met with much discussion, criticism, and admiration, during its day, and still does. I simply noted its date (it was much later than Jeanne's voyage, 1766-1774) and taped it to a doorframe. The feebleness of this gesture stays with me.