Wednesday 5 February 2014

Mary Seacole by Henry Weekes

Mary Seacole by Henry Weekes at the Getty Museum. 


As a relief from the 18th Century I am posting a few images of Mary Seacole by Henry Weekes (1807 -77). Height 26".

                                   A piece of sculpture that should be much better known.


1 comment:

  1. It's probably not better known because it is not Mary Seacole.

    If the Getty ever thought it was her (which they certainly don't now), they were very foolish indeed, and like you, guilty of jumping with almost desperate enthusiasm on to a political bandwagon instead of doing some basic art historical research. The bust is dated 1859, when Mrs Seacole was 53 or 54 years old, and she was of mixed race - a creole, as she described herself. This is clearly the face of a much younger woman, and likely of full African stock. And even if you doubt that, we have portraits of Seacole from the early/mid-1850s when she already looks far older than this, and has far less pronounced African features.

    So it is no surprise to find that when the bust was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859, its title was 'An African Head'. The woman is an unknown and probably unknowable model. If Seacole had been sculpted and exhibited in 1859, her status was easily high enough for it to have borne her name, or if she preferred to be anonymous, 'A Jamaican Lady' or even 'A Creole Lady'. Such was her pride in her mixed, and especially her Scottish ancestry, that it's inconceivable she would allow it to be titled an African anything.

    There is not a scrap of evidence, visual or documentary, that the work has any connection with Mary Seacole whatever, and ample evidence that it has not. It acquired the name as at best wishful thinking, and more likely as astute marketing by the auctioneers who were selling it. It is sad to see you falling for such nonsensical hype.