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Alice Joyner

Date made: n.d.

Artist: unknown artist

Description: A portrait of Alice Joyner, born 1710 and died in 1755, buried in Braddan. Her portrait expresses opulence and wealth, with her striking yellow dress becoming the centre of attention against the dark background of the painting. Clothes were dyed yellow using saffron, which was an expensive spice – making the colour a symbol of royalty in status in countries like China and India.

Alice was the wife of merchant Captain Paul Bridson (1694-1771) - who was a major importer of goods and materials that would be re-exported to buy slaves on the African coast. This may explain how Alice had access to an unusual colour of clothing, and why they would have chosen this dress for her portrait – to symbolise their status as leading merchants.

Historian Frances Wilkins describes Paul Bridson as the leading merchant on the Island, stating that for many years he was "in the anomalous position of being the deputy searcher or customs officer for Douglas while he was also both a merchant in his own right and an agent for others in the Guinea and smuggling trades".

He was responsible for 41% of the total value imported by the leading Dutch importing master Jan Wolfers - he also had strong links with Liverpool merchants. His name appeared from 1730s onwards on customs entries for Derbyhaven - apparently importing goods (wool, hides etc) from Ireland - but from c.1745 he moved his business to Douglas and in the following 20 years, imported exploitative goods linked to the slave trade valued at over £80,000.

Measurements: overall: 75 cm x 62 cm

Materials: oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 1978-0156

Subject tags : #artgalleryjourneys


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