"Slave-in-Chains" medallion

English
1786–87
Made at Wedgwood Manufactory (Staffordshire, England)


Object Place: Europe, Staffordshire, England

Dimensions

Overall: 30 x 28 x 3 mm (1 3/16 x 1 1/8 x 1/8 in.) Height (with hanging loop): 38 mm (1 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

96.779

Medium or Technique

Stoneware (Jasperware), basalt, gold

Not On View

Collections

Europe

Classifications

Pendants

Jasper ware; figure of a kneeling slave in chains in black basalt with inscription in white relief around it, on a white medallion; gold wire around edge, and ring.


During the late-eighteenth-century abolitionist movement in England, the seal for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade showed a manacled slave on bended knee above the words “Am I Not a Man and Brother?” Josiah Wedgwood, a member of the society and a ceramics manufacturer, used the image to mass-produce hundreds of cameos in black-and-white jasperware with raised text and rim. One of his company artists, William Hackwood, made the prototype. Wedgwood distributed the badges widely in both England and the United States, where abolitionists set them so that they could be worn as hat pins, brooches, pendants, and watch fobs. The noted abolitionist Thomas Clarkson commented in his writings of the period that these Wedgwood ornaments were powerful tools in “promoting the cause of justice, humanity, and freedom.”
Yvonne J. Markowitz, “’Slave-in-Chains’ medallion” in Artful Adornments: Jewelry from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Yvonne J. Markowitz (Boston: MFA Publications, 2011), 65.

Credit Line

Bequest of Mrs. Richard Baker