The skinning of the Aboma Snake, shot by Cap. Stedman.
[London, Published Dec.r 2d. 1793 by J. Johnson, St. Paul's Church Yard.]
Etching and engraving. 255 x 205mm. 10¼ x 8¼". Repaired tear at bottom.
This image by Blake shows a black slave - 'the negro David' - climbing up a huge boa constrictor in order to begin skinning the snake. The figure in the lower left is probably Stedman. Published in "Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild Coast of South America", by Captain John Gabriel Stedman. The Dutch captured the British colony of Suriname during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1667). Under the West India Company it was developed as a plantation slave society and became a primary destination for the Dutch slave trade. The brutal regime caused high mortality; despite the import of 300,000 slaves between 1668 and 1823, the population never grew beyond 50,000. ‘Maroonage’ became the major form of resistance. Fugitive slaves, or ‘maroons’, escaped inland to form permanent communities from where they waged a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Dutch. In 1774 the Scottish-Dutch soldier John Gabriel Stedman witnessed the brutal oppression of slaves during a campaign against the maroons, which he described in this book. The work contained 80 engravings by various hands which are generally acknowledged to have been based on drawings made by Captain J.G. Stedman, although only two of the plates bear his name. Stedman was a personal friend of William Blake’s and it is likely that William Blake modified Stedman’s designs, being those of an amateur artist. From the sole surviving watercolour by Stedman for this work, it is known that the engravers involved were allowed considerable liberty in adapting Stedman’s designs. The book was adopted by those who advocated the abolition of the slave trade, though Stedman was thought to support reform rather than abolition.
In the Victoria and Albert Museum.
[Ref: 25888] £90.00