THE Lady Lever Art Gallery is placing a painting featuring an enslaved African person at the front and centre of its displays.

The oil painting of Catherine-Marie Legendre, painted about 1705 and attributed to Jean Baptiste Santerre (1658-1717), is the only item in the gallery’s collection, from the 18th century, to depict a person of colour. Following a period in conservation, the painting will be on display from October 1 2021 in a new and more prominent place on the gallery, inviting comment from the public.

The disturbing portrait by Santerre is designed to show the sitter’s wealth and position in society.

It depicts a young boy, who is an enslaved African person, brought from a plantation to work as an unpaid house servant. He is wearing a decorative metal slave collar around his neck. His name is not known, but the sitter is Catherine-Marie Legendre (or Le Gendre, died 1749), the wife of French nobleman, Claude Pecoil (1629-1722), Marquise de Septème.

Alyson Pollard, Head of the Lady Lever Art Gallery said: “The Lady Lever Art Gallery is seeking to display, more openly, the Black histories and stories linked to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its legacies which are hidden in the collections. Displaying a problematic and disturbing painting, like this, prominently and acknowledging its context is the beginning of a long term project to ensure our collections are not seen and viewed through a single historic lens but instead reflect multiple histories."

This intervention is one of several actions which the Lady Lever Art Gallery is taking in response to Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd. The gallery has updated its website to acknowledge Lord Lever’s activities in West Africa during the period 1911 to 1925 and has started to engage in research into Lever’s legacy and reinterpret its collection to fully reflect the histories of the collection.

For more information on National Museums Liverpool’s response to Black Lives Matter see