Woman Carrying a Child, Trinidad, 1836

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This record was last updated on 01 May 2012

Image Reference

Richard Bridgens, West India Scenery...from sketches taken during a voyage to, and residence of seven years in ... Trinidad (London, 1836), plate 13.

Caption, "Negro mode of nursing." Shows fully attired woman with necklace and head tie, carrying a small child and a calabash container; thatched-roof houses in the background. "The manner of carrying their children astride on the hip . . . is peculiar to the Negress . . . .The female [shown in this illustration] is in the usual dress worn by the Negress in the occupations of the field. It consists of a chemise of cotton, confined by a girdle; sometimes, of a vest down to the waist, and a loose petticoat from thence to the knees. The neck is covered with several rows of coral and glass beads, and the ears adorned with immense earrings. The head is bound round with a madras handkerchief . . . . The usual form of Negro hut is given in the background. The walls, consisting of a kind of wicker-work, covered with a thick coating of mud . . . . The roof is thatched with . . . 'trash,' that is the dead leaves of the cane.” The woman is holding “a tootoo, one of the numerous vessels formed by the Negroes for domestic purposes from the shell which covers the fruit of the calabash tree" (Bridgens). A sculptor, designer and architect, Richard Bridgens was born in England in 1785, but in 1825 he moved to Trinidad where his wife had inherited a sugar plantation. Although he occasionally returned to England, he ultimately lived in Trinidad for seven years and died in Port of Spain in 1846. Bridgens’ book contains 27 plates, thirteen of which are shown on this website; the plates were based on drawings made from life and were done between 1825, when Bridgens arrived in Trinidad, and 1836, when his book was published. Although his work is undated on the title page, a copy held by the Beinecke Rare Book Room at Yale University has a front cover with a publication date of 1836, the date usually assigned to this work by major libraries whose copies lack a title page. Bridgens’ racist perspectives on enslaved Africans and his defense of slavery are discussed in T. Barringer, G. Forrester, and B. Martinez-Ruiz, Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds (Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 460-461, which also gives the publication date of the Bridgens volume (p. 333, note 2); for details on Bridgens’ life, see Brian Austen, Richard Hicks Bridgens (Oxford Art Online/Grove Art Online). Thanks to Sarah Thomas for her help with this entry.