Posted on December 5, 2018

Mixed-Race Mayor Removes Gainsborough Painting of 18th-Century Aristocrat from Her Office over His Links to the Slave Trade

Amie Gordon, Daily Mail, December 4, 2018

A Lord Mayor has removed a portrait of a politician linked to the slave trade from her office and replaced it with the picture of an African-American woman.

Cleo Lake took down the ‘dull and dated’ portrait of Lord Nugent from the walls of City Hall in Bristol.

Painted by the artist Thomas Gainsborough, the portrait shows Lord Nugent holding a copy of the 1750 Act for the Regulation of the Slave Trade, which he helped pass through parliament.

The Mayor has replaced it with a painting of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells became the source of the HeLa cell line, and pivotal to modern medicine.

Earlier this year, the Mayor took down a portrait of the Bristol slave trader Edward Colston, whose ships transported nearly 100,000 Africans to the Americas.

The Green Party councillor has been at the forefront of the campaign for a new museum or heritage centre detailing Bristol’s role in the slave trade, and its abolition.

She said: ‘The portrait will be kept safe until such time it might be displayed elsewhere in a relevant context.

‘I do not think that such portraits should grace the walls of the office of the first citizen of a forward looking, creative and diverse city like Bristol.

‘They do not resonate anything positive to me personally and have no connection to who we are as a city today nor the vision for our future.

‘They are dull and dated at best and I was not willing to preside and concur with the status quo of keeping them there nor miss the opportunity to usher in some change however symbolic.’

Cllr Lake said it was ‘important to keep certain historic artefacts’.

She added: ‘But if a decision was made to sell the portraits then I would advocate that any funds should be ring fenced towards educational and development initiatives or a centre that could use heritage and culture to create opportunities and jobs.’


The Mayor said: ‘I also do not wish the removal of portraits to be a divisive issue.


‘I do not see the topic to be exclusively about race either because although the legacy of enslavement is ongoing with serious issues such as Afriphobia and inequality, {snip}.