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Portrait of the Willett Children

1789-1791
George Romney, English, 1734 - 1802

The Willett children visited George Romney’s studio several times in preparation for this monumental portrait. Six-year-old John, the family heir, stands alongside his two siblings: his elder sister, Anabella, and his younger brother, Henry Ralph.


Shortly after this painting was completed, the children’s father inherited from a cousin two sugar plantations on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. These estates, which benefited the children depicted here, depended on the stolen skills and labor of enslaved Africans for the grueling work of planting, tending, and harvesting acres of sugar cane. In 1834, when Britain abolished slavery in its colonies, 351 people living and working on the Willett family property were emancipated.

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Object Details

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