A LORD Mayor has removed a valuable painting from her office over its links to the slave trade.
Cleo Lake discovered that the work by Thomas Gainsborough shows Lord Nugent holding an act of Parliament that gave Bristol merchants more sway over shipping Africans to the colonies.
She has replaced it with a portrait of an African-American woman whose death from cancer led to an important medical breakthrough.
The Bristol Lord Mayor said the Gainsborough work was ‘dull and dated at best’. She added: ‘I do not think such portraits should grace the walls of the office of the first citizen of a forward looking, creative and diverse city.’
The mayor previously took down a portrait of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston and replaced it with a painting of a lion. It was then pointed out to the Green party councillor that the painting beside it showed Bristol MP Lord Nugent with the 1750 act that replaced the Royal African Company with the African Company of Merchants. This had a majority of members from Bristol and was handed control of forts on the coast of modern Ghana.
The replacement painting by Bristol artist Helen Wilson-Roe is of Henrietta Lacks, who died in Baltimore in 1951 aged 31. Doctors studying her tumour were the first in the world to create an immortalised cell line. They found her cells could be reproduced indefinitely in a lab because a mutation caused them to rapidly divide without dying.
The mayor said she did not want the removal of portraits to be ‘a divisive issue’, adding: ‘I know it is emotive and I respect other views.’ Both the portraits of Lord Nugent and Colston are being stored by Bristol’s museums service.