Unknown (formerly att. Johann Zoffany)
Dido Elizabeth Belle
oil on canvas
Scone Palace, Perth (private collection of the Earl of Mansfield)
Although this painting falls outside the usual scope of this blog, it is one of my favorite historical European paintings. Dido Elizabeth Belle was the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay and enslaved African woman named Belle.
This painting was most likely commissioned by her father, the nephew of the Earl of Mansfield, and depicts the beautiful and vivacious Belle alongside her cousin, Elizabeth Murray.
The first time I saw this painting was in an art history classroom, accompanied by a story regarding the dehumanization of Africans in the Unites States, and the scores of visiting Americans who were scandalized by this painting. In America and several places in Europe, contemporaneous paintings always depicted people considered Black in subservient positions in relation to people considered White, if they bothered to paint them at all. To raise a bastard daughter of color alongside legitimate heirs was antithetical to American thought.
Dido Belle was raised and educated alongside the other highborn daughters of the household, and remained a favorite of the Earl and her father well into her thirties, after which an advantageous marriage was arranged.
Her position in the Earl’s household supervising the poultry yards was typical for any lady of high birth at the time, but her job overseeing the lord’s correspondence was usually a task reserved for a highly educated male clerk or scribe and is evidence of her importance and elevated rank. She received an allowance of £30 per year, more than any except the heiress herself and a sum unheard of at the time for any illegitimate daughter.
Upon Lord Mansfield’s death in 1788, Belle was furnished with a £500 lump sum in addition to a £100 annuity, as well as a suitable marriage to John Davinier, with whom she had three children. In Mansfield’s will, her status as a free person was carefully confirmed, since many would have been all too happy to divest her of her fortune.
Belle died in 1804 and was interred in St. George’s Fields, the parish to which she and her husband belonged.
My interest in this story was renewed recently when I learned that an upcoming film, Belle (currently in production), will be a dramatized biopic of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s life. The titular role will be played by South African actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
OMG OMG OMG I’m so excited for this movie!
nothing in the world is gonna stop me from seeing that movie
Want to collaborate on a Google Doc with Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Dickinson, Dickens and Poe?
Click here. Start typing. Enjoy the hilarity.
Ninja Update: Wanna see something fun? Mention Shakespeare in a sentence and see what happens.
Poe kept writing distinctly into my sentences so I wrote ”Edgar, you’re not funny” aND HE BLATANTLY DELETED THE NOT I AM SO DONE WITH THIS ASDFKJL
OH GOD IF YOU TYPE “EDGAR ALLAN POE” POE ADDS A :( AFTER HIS NAME PRECIOUS BABY
Poe kept interrupting my sentences, so I wrote, “Edgar are you fucking kidding me?” and Shakespeare replaced “fucking” with “hay rolling”
Emily Dickinson and Charles Dickens will fight if you put the word “Dickens” in the doc.
I am done.
Poe kept changing words so the sentences no longer made sense so I wrote “bitch please” and Shakespeare corrected it to, “qualling harpy please”
i started with the Bohemian Rhapsody and let me tell you i was not disappointed
I WROTE “SHUT UP SHAKESPEARE” AND HE WROTE “THE HANDSOME AND MARVELLOUS” AND POE CORRECTED IT TO “DREADFUL AND LONELY”
poe wrote “I wish I could write as mysteriously as a cat.”
no really start with song lyrics
someone stop me from watching all of k-on right now
what do you call a hooker that you pay with spaghetti?
how many people unfollowed you because of this
Is it okay if I fall asleep:
Are kisses allowed:
Are pants required:
When are you available for cuddles:
to the place where I belong
Li’l Gotham #12 -Father’s Day celebrations
This is the best thing ever. Jason with his bread, Tim is cooking… soup? And Dick. Oh Dick.
DID BATMAN JUST QUOTE THE RED ROBIN COMMERCIAL OMFG