FRANÇOIS MATHURIN ADALBERT, BARON DE COURCY (1805-1839)
'Le Negrito à l’ancre. Dans le port de la havanne'
Indistinctly signed lower left
Titled on the mount
Pencil and watercolour, heightened with white, on paper, 24.8 x 34.6 cm
The present watercolour will be illustrated in:
- Prof. Manuel Garcia’s projected book on the disease and the slave trade provisionally titled “Fighting the Yellow Demon of Fever: The Struggle against Disease in the Illegal Slave Trade”.
- Prof. Micael Zeuske’s forthcoming Global history of slave trade.
Mexico City, 1998, Palacio Virreinal, El Barón de Courcy, illustrationes de un viaje, 1831-1833, no. 108
Baron de Courcy was in the Caribbean in late 1832 and early 1833, following his tour of Mexico in 1832, on the last leg of his “Grand Voyage Américain” which had begun with the eastern seaboard and waterways of Canada and the United States in 1831. He had sketched the great natural wonders of the New World en route, from Niagara Falls to the Mexican sierra, but the present watercolour of the slave ship Negrito is undoubtedly the most arresting of all of his American paintings.
De Courcy paints the deck of the ship, where some of the slaves, probably mainly the women, were sheltered beneath spare furled sails when the ship was anchored. When sailing the slaves were stowed in the lower decks and only when these were completely full some had to stay on loose boards above the water running across the deck.
This watercolour places De Courcy in Havana in December 1832, as the Negrito is recorded as arriving in the port with its “cargo” on 11 December 1832. The details of the slaver’s voyage are recorded in detail on the “Voyages” list in “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database”.
The Negrito, captained by Francisco Antonio Sarria, flying the Spanish and Uruguayan flags, sailed from Havana for the west coast of Africa on 17 June 1832. She made landfall at Whydah (Ouidah) in the Bay of Benin and departed from Africa on 20 October with 590 slaves, bound for Havana. The passage took fifty-two days, with forty-six slaves perishing on the voyage. The Negrito arrived with her 534 surviving slaves at Havana on 11 December 1832. By the early 1800s, Cuba had become the second-largest destination for slaves transported from West Africa, and in the early 1830s, after the slave trade had been made illegal, the numbers landing in Havana peaked, with twenty-two slave ships disembarking their slaves in the port. By then Havana had become the largest slave port in the world, both as receiver of slaves and as the planner of slave-voyages.