Portrait of a Woman and an Enslaved Servant

Nicolas de Largillierre (or Largillière) French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 618

Seventeenth-century portraits often staged hierarchical relationships between a central sitter and supporting figures. In this example, a white woman clad in resplendent silk dominates the composition, while a Black child wearing a hinged metal slave collar is positioned subserviently to her side, holding a lapdog. The legal code of France officially prohibited slavery within the kingdom itself, but exceptions abounded, particularly for families whose wealth derived from colonial trade. In the absence of persuasive documentation for their identities, the life stories of both sitters of this portrait remain unknown.

Portrait of a Woman and an Enslaved Servant, Nicolas de Largillierre (or Largillière) (French, Paris 1656–1746 Paris), Oil on canvas

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