“Now known as Portrait of a Haitian Woman (1786) and painted by the French Canadian artist François Malépart de Beaucourt, this work is the most thorough and professionally rendered representation of a Black slave in the context of Québec and Canada at this historical juncture. It offers unparalleled opportunity to explore the specific colonial context of enslavement in 18th-century Montréal and Québec.”
“The sexually charged nature [emphasis added] of Portrait of a Haitian Woman— the deliberate juxtaposition of the breast with the tropical fruit — is indicative of the precarious status of Black female slaves and their vulnerability to sexual exploitation. Upper class, white female sitters simply would not have been represented in this fashion. Due to the practice of “breeding,”all aspects of female slave life came under invasive scrutiny from slave owners, including their sexuality, marital status, workload and diet. Therefore, the exposed breast of the enslaved Black female in Portrait of a Haitian Woman indicates her sexuality and “breeding” potential as active considerations in her economic value. Beaucourt’s portrait participated in the creation of sexual stereotypes through which Black women were viewed as sexually lascivious and deviant, which served to justify their sexual exploitation within the Atlantic Slave Trade.”
This wedding dress is one of the most outstanding garments in the McCord
Museum’s collection. A rare piece, it is one of the few 18th-century
silk gowns with a hand-painted floral design to be found in a North
American museum. The soft cream silk was handwoven in China, where the
floral pattern was handpainted in tones of lavender, blue, yellow, green
and brown. This charming dress was worn by Mary Chaloner in
Guiseborough, England, when she married Colonel John Hale. The groom had
served under Major-General James Wolfe in the Battle of the Plains of
Abraham in Quebec, and it was he who brought the news of Wolfe’s death
back to George III in England.
This late-18th century shoe, part of the Museum’s collection of 540 pairs of footwear, is of the finest quality. It originally belonged to a member of Montreal’s leading Molson family. In the 18th century, small feet were a must among stylish ladies, and very dainty shoes like these are characteristic of the period. It was also fashionable to have shoes made of the same fabric as one’s ball dress: a beautiful gown in the same brocaded silk as this pair of shoes may therefore once have existed.