While at the Liberty Bell Center, I saw reproductions of the Gilbert Stuart painting of Hercules, George Washington's enslaved cook. The painting now resides in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. So my visit to the museum was primarily to see the portrait reproduced above. It turns out that the museum has several Stuart portraits, which gave me a greater appreciation for the artist, as the work is phenomenally better in person than in reproduction.
The wall didactic refers to the presumed portrait of Hercules as Washington's Cook. I wonder if a hypothetical portrait of Martha Washington would be referred to as George's Wife? The title card also makes no reference to the subject's enslavement. When someone is referred to by their title or trade, it sort of implies that they haven't been forced into their occupation. A little bit of rephrasing would give a much better description of the presumed subject.
At the gift shop I was hoping to buy a reproduction of the image, but it wasn't to be found among the postcards. The only reproductions available where on a piece of dark chocolate(!) and a face mask that would give a child the opportunity to do blackface! I would hope that the person who orders these products would have a little better understanding of the implications of their marketing decisions.
Or at least some cross-cultural understanding.
Feel free to comment.