Pottery Sellers, Kingston, Jamaica, 1838


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This record was last updated on 31 May 2011

Image Reference
Belisario07

Source
Isaac Mendes Belisario, Sketches of character, in illustration of the habits, occupation, and costume of the Negro population, in the island of Jamaica: drawn after nature, and in lithography (Kingston, Jamaica: published by the artist, at his residence, 1837-1838; reprinted Hawaii: Kauai Fine Arts, 1998).

Comments
Caption, "Water-Jar Sellers,” shows two men carrying pottery on their heads. The pottery in the man's tray on the left includes (on the very top) the globular tea-pot shaped ceramic ware known in the Anglophone Caribbean as a “monkey” or “monkey jar,” used to hold water and keep it cool; this might be the earliest known illustration of the “monkey.” The large pot on the head of the man on the right appears to be a Jamaican version of the “Spanish [olive] jar.” Belisario provides a detailed description of water supplies in Jamaica, particularly Kingston, and notes that the porous water jars in “ordinary use are manufactured at potteries near the city”; the two men shown here “are apprentices who sally forth daily.” The blue bag hanging from the neck of the taller man is a purse, “every female Negro also carries a similar appendage at her waist.” Isaac Mendes Belisario was born in Kingston in 1794 into a merchant family of Sephardic Jews. He was sent to London in 1803 to reside with the English branch of the family. In England he studied painting. Belisario returned to Jamaica in 1834, and stayed until 1839 when he returned to London. Coming again to Jamaica around 1842, he remained until 1849 when he again returned to London where he died in June of that year. The lithograph shown here is one of 12, originally published in three parts, 4 plates at a time. All are based on drawings made “from life” or “after nature” by Belisario during his residence in Kingston during the mid- to- late1830s. The lithographs were hand tinted in color and were printed by the French-born artist/lithographer Adolphe Duperly, a friend of Belisario. The 12 lithographs have been reproduced in facsimile, with their entire accompanying descriptive texts authored by Belisario, in two lavishly illustrated and well researched volumes, both of which contain a great deal of material on Belisario, his life and the world in which he lived: Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz [and others], Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2007); and Jackie Ranston, Belisario: Sketches of Character: A Historical Biography of a Jamaican Artist (Kingston, Jamaica; Mills Press, 2008). The former volume contains a number of essays by different scholars dealing with Belisario, his art, and various aspects of Jamaican society and history; the latter treats similar subjects in less depth but goes into much greater detail on family history and various people Belisario encountered during his lifetime and who had an influence on his art. The Institute of Jamaica published full color photographic reproductions of a complete set of the Sketches of Character lithographs in its collection; each image is printed separately on stiff paper (albeit with no textual material) and was made available for public purchase. No imprint information is given for the Institute’s re-issue, but it was probably done in the 1970s.