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Culture

British museum protests export of oldest known portrait of a slave

In London, an appeal has been launched to stop the export of the earliest known British painting of a freed slave.

The National Portrait Gallery needs to raise 100,000 pounds ($151,000) to save the 1733 portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, done by artist William Hoare.

The painting sold at auction for over half a million euros (over $630,000) in December but the government put a temporary bar on its export and gave British museums and galleries the chance to buy it if they could match the price. Major grants are already secured but a shortfall remains, prompting the portrait gallery's appeal.

Diallo was from a prosperous family of religious clerics in Gambia and was captured as a slave in Africa at the age of 29 before being taken to work on an American plantation.

After being imprisoned for trying to escape, a lawyer, impressed with his intellect and education, brought him to England where he was enthusiastically received by aristocrats and scholars.

The National Portrait Gallery has put the picture on temporary display in London - saying it is the first British portrait that honored a named African subject as an individual and equal.

Author: Olly Barratt

Editor: Kate Bowen