Horrors, just horrors

Rembrandt and slavery: did the great painter have links to this abhorrent trade?

The actual claim is that he painted someone who owned a sugar refinery. That might be more degrees of separation than deserves the word “links”.

33 thoughts on “Horrors, just horrors”

  1. All this stuff about European painters if the 17th and 18th century painting slaves is so irrelevant, so “Black Lives Matter”. A more interesting perspective comes from 19th century Russia, where some aristocrats selected serfs to be trained as artists. So you have portraits of aristocrats painted by serfs. Aristocrats to an extent putting themselves under the control of serfs, having their image created by serfs. It is enough to make a Guardian journo’s head explode

  2. In 1634, when Rembrandt painted the portraits, the Dutch had only recently (1630) seized Recife in Brazil from the Portuguese. The sugar plantations there were owned and run by Sephardic Jews and used a mixture of African slaves imported by the Portuguese and native labour. The couple portrayed by Rembrandt were merely importers and refiners of sugar cane products. I doubt they knew or cared much about their supply chain.

    Rembrandt’s connection with slavery is merely neurotic psychological association.

  3. The cancel crowd will only be satisfied once we’ve achieved Year Zero. Multicultitransoffence mongering was just the beginning. To paraphrase the WEF Great Reset, “You will know nothing and you WILL accept it.”

  4. As we know, Diversity is Our Greatest Strength.

    The Americas originally became Diverse largely because of slavery.

    Therefore, slavery is good. ¯\_( ツ)_/¯

  5. “…and their founder’s wealth being built on cotton,”

    Dear Grauniad,

    I’m wearing a cotton t-shirt right now. Does this mean I’m complicit in slavery?

    Signed, Anxious of Manchester.

    Dear Grauniad,

    I just realised I live in Manchester, a city whose wealth was built on cotton. Should we raise it to the ground?

    Signed, Anxious.

  6. Bloke in China (Germany Province)

    “I doubt they knew or cared much about their supply chain.”

    You see, they should have had a directive, policy, and working procedure for that. A department to monitor reports of potentially slave-produced sugar entering the supply chain, and procedures for disciplining suppliers who did such.

    “Dear Grauniad,

    I just realised I live in Manchester, a city whose wealth was built on cotton. Should we raise it to the ground?”

    Nope. The Graun is on the record on this issue. Back when, pre civil war, mill workers once organised a boycott of American cotto. The Graun, ever champion of the working man, the downtrodden, and the emancipatory left, was staunchly on the side of the mill owners.

  7. Well, the Graun was originally the Manchester Guardian. Perhaps they should commit commercial seppuku in atonement.

  8. Slavery is becoming a bit homeopathic, just the flimsiest contact is enough to taint anything.

    ‘The cancel crowd will only be satisfied once we’ve achieved Year Zero.’
    Indeed this is the point, to make us ashamed of our past and history to delegitimize the present, so they can build their ‘better’ future.

  9. Slavery is becoming a bit homeopathic, just the flimsiest contact is enough to taint anything.

    Except those brandishing a socialist pass.

  10. “Slavery is becoming a bit homeopathic, just the flimsiest contact is enough to taint anything.”

    It’s a one drop rule!

  11. Theophrastus,

    “I doubt they knew or cared much about their supply chain.”

    I think it’s almost impossible to judge what history thought of a thing. My thing with slavery is that if it was so bad, why didn’t more of them leave? Yeah, there were risks, but lots of slaves make it. And I suspect part of it is that being a free peasant wasn’t actually that much better than being a slave.

    And maybe people saw it that way. Like people are appalled at 15 year olds making iPads today, but 70 years ago, we had 15 year olds in factories and it was generally accepted. The idea they should be 16 or 18 would have been quite an elite opinion.

  12. Bloke on M4
    re employing 15 year olds
    I had a job at 15, in a textile factory.
    Very motivating: no way was I going to fail my exams and have to go back there.
    Today you can employ 15 year olds fo work experience, so long as you don’t pay them. Not an advance, in my view.

  13. “I think it’s almost impossible to judge what history thought of a thing.”

    Dutch law and custom at the time was pretty clear about slavery at the time: A good Christian did not keep christian serfs or slaves. We were not like the Berbers, thankyou…

    Indentured labour was another matter ( and your own damn fault if it befell you..), but the dutch as a whole never did keep slaves.
    Nor did they trade in them outside a few entrepeneurial excercises, which was more about attempts at cockblocking disrupting the portuguese and english trade in them under the flag of the W.I.C. An even that was heavily criticised and considered un-dutch by the Governors and Stadholders.
    (To be fair, the WIC Governors were mostly critical because there was not a shred of profit, only loss, in slave transports, and hardly any in the local trade in the Carribean.)

    Something, something proceedings on record, kept at the dutch royal library.

    Besides that, the raw sugar itself was most likely not even from dutch plantations most of the time…
    Outside the ever-shifting five-sided wars/aliances of the time, a dutch trader could pick a number of harbours, and simply negotiate for the sugar ( and try to dodge taxes.) locally.
    The sugar could be “dutch”, “english”, “french”, “spanish”, or “portuguese” depending on who held the harbour this time around, if it wasn’t acquired in a freeport ( aka pirated/smuggled..)

    And by the time it hit Amsterdam, no-one cared…

  14. Does the writer of this article own any clothing made by Nike?

    They have a stronger “link” to slavery than Rembrandt.

  15. Amusingly, I’m pretty sure that Silver Spoon is the brand name for beet produced sugar domestically…..

  16. “The sugar plantations there were owned and run by Sephardic Jews and used a mixture of African slaves imported by the Portuguese and native labour.”

    Shut it down!

  17. Grikath,

    “Dutch law and custom at the time was pretty clear about slavery at the time: A good Christian did not keep christian serfs or slaves. We were not like the Berbers, thankyou…”

    Yes, but if you employ someone out in the colonies to look after the slaves, that’s fine, then. Out of sight and no-one judges you.

    Or another example: the people of Bristol erected a statue in the late 19th century to Edward Colston, as a symbol of his philanthropic works, but people today look on him as someone who traded slaves. Clearly, even in the late 19th century, and for decades into the 20th (and the campaign against the statue has only really been going for about a decade), no-one cared there was a statue put up to a slave trader.

  18. I suspect part of it is that being a free peasant wasn’t actually that much better than being a slave.
    A point George MacDonald Fraser makes in one of the Flashman novels; abolitionists made a fuss about slavery but didn’t care about the British lower orders being worked to death in the mills.

    A slave owner has invested in his slaves and is therefore incentivised to look after them. A mill owner need not care if his workers suffer as he can just stop paying them.

    In any case, the people kicking up a fuss about slavery today don’t actually give a shit about it. If they did, they would direct their efforts towards the slavery going on today in various parts of the world.

  19. BOM4, yup…

    Than again, If you reverse your logic, you end up being responsible for All Your Ancestors did.

    Which in my case… Am I responsible for the arrow that caused the brits to be under *french* rule, instead of danish?

    For reference, I am innocent of that one until 19thC yorkish influence ( my mother’s maiden name is pure Yäervik…) anything before that is went/frysian/dutch.

    But have a bloody go…
    But by your logic, I am responsible for Brenda to be actually French.

  20. oh, and i come from a family with a motto that does not makes sense in english, until you realise you’re supposed to translate it in old German…

    “Nihilo Minus Quam”

    “less than nothing”
    “nichts minderes als”

    major difference…..

    the vagaries of transliterating latin into a living language..

  21. Surely it’s about time you blew up Stonehenge. Plenty of slaves used on that one.

    And all the Roman ruins. You’ll have noticed the splendid start by Islamic State on Palmyra. And the Taliban on the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

    In fact it will have occurred to you that the entire human race has had some sort of contact with slavery. So we all must die. But clearly the immoral Extinction Rebellion which refuses to accept this must be the first to be exterminated.

  22. Necessary to be more than a bit careful here. On sugar plantations (so, Caribbean, mostly, a bit in Louisiana and it’s still possible to see differences in marriage patterns between black Americans from cotton areas and sugar) the base calculation was to work a male slave to death over 7 to 8 years. Which is why they deliberately didn’t import many women to the islands. They figured it was cheaper to import more to replace the dead than grow their own.

    Yes, slave owners did consider the value of their capital assets. A calculation that didn’t always come down on the preservation of the asset side.

  23. “A mill owner need not care if his workers suffer as he can just stop paying them.” Yup, and never be able to attract and retain labour again. Jesus, people say stupid things about business.

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