What evidence is there of a black presence in Britain and north west England?

Portrait of a lady, Mary or Anne Butterworth

Attributed to John Michael Wright (1617-1694), about 1660
Oil on canvas

Object number 276
Bequeathed by Colonel TR Phillip, Belfield Hall, Rochdale

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Portrait of a lady, Mary or Anne Butterworth

This portrait depicts a lady with an unnamed black servant pouring water onto her hand. It is thought to be of either Mary or Anne Butterworth of Belfield Hall near Rochdale and is dated to about 1660.

The black servant draws attention to the Butterworths' wealth and social standing. However, at some point he was painted out of the picture. It was only during conservation work on the painting in 1969, that x-ray techniques revealed his presence. This demonstrates how the use of black servants was a fashion no longer acceptable in England by the end of the 1700s.

This information was provided by curators from Touchstones Rochdale.