This painting, once known as ‘Portrait of a Black Man’, potentially represents Francis Barber. Barber, an enslaved Jamaican, started in the service of Samuel Johnson in 1752 at the age of about ten. Sent by his owner’s son, who was a great friend of Johnson’s, his presence was intended to rouse Johnson from the grief caused by his wife’s death in March of that year. This plan succeeded so well that Barber was still with Johnson at his death. Johnson was ardently anti-slavery; he paid for Barber to be educated and made him his heir. This portrait is a copy of Sir Joshua Reynolds' original by his pupil James Northcote.
Where to see this painting?
Dr Johnson's House
17 Gough Square, London, Greater London, England, EC4A 3DE
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.