'The Family of Sir William Young', Johan Zoffany, about 1767 - 69
Oil on canvas, 114.3 x 167.8cm
Accession Number WAG 2395
This painting was previously dated to 1770 when Sir William Young (1725 - 1788) obtained his baronetcy and was appointed Governor of Dominica. The family all wear theatrical Van Dyck costume, which was then very popular in family portraits.
It is possible that the black youth steadying the boys on horseback was a slave who had accompanied Young to England from one of his West Indian plantations. He does not wear a metal collar which was sometimes worn as a sign of slave status. This, together with his familiar manner with the child on horseback suggests that he may have been regarded by the family as more of a servant than a slave. This sympathetic attitude towards and portrayal of the black youth may be a reflection of the growing change in attitudes towards slavery in the late 18th century.