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Benjamin Lay

Benjamin Lay
Artist
William Williams, Sr., 1727 - 27 Apr 1791
Sitter
Benjamin Lay, c. 1681 - 3 Feb 1759
Date
c. 1750-1758
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on mahogany panel
Dimensions
Panel: 37.8 x 36.2 x 3.8cm (14 7/8 x 14 1/4 x 1 1/2")
Frame: 54.3 x 51.4 x 5.1cm (21 3/8 x 20 1/4 x 2")
Topic
Costume\Headgear\Hat
Nature & Environment\Clouds
Printed Material\Book
Exterior\Landscape\Rural
Nature & Environment\Plant\Tree
Equipment\Walking stick\Cane
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Beard
Container\Basket
Nature & Environment\Fruit\Grapes
Nature & Environment\Fruit\Watermelon
Benjamin Lay: Male
Benjamin Lay: Society and Social Change\Reformer
Benjamin Lay: Society and Social Change\Philanthropist
Benjamin Lay: Society and Social Change\Reformer\Abolitionist
Portrait
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; this acquisition was made possible by a generous contribution from the James Smithson Society
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.79.171
Exhibition Label
Born Colchester, England
Although small in stature, Quaker reformer Benjamin Lay loomed large in the emerging eighteenth century antislavery movement. Having witnessed the horrors of slavery as a merchant in Barbados, Lay dedicated himself to abolitionism. In 1731, he set out for Pennsylvania, where he resumed his campaign against slavery, writing pamphlets and speaking out at Quaker meetings. At the time, members of the Religious Society of Friends, as Quakers are formally known, enslaved people and participated in the slave trade.
Benjamin Franklin’s wife, Deborah, owned this portrait of Lay. Although Franklin was an enslaver, his printing shop had published Lay’s abolitionist tract “All Slave-keepers that Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates,” in 1738. Here, Lay stands before his cave-like home, holding a treatise “on happiness” by the English Quaker philosopher Thomas Tryon. Shortly before Lay’s death, the Philadelphia Society of Friends passed a resolution expelling members who traded enslaved people.
Nacido en Colchester, Inglaterra
Aunque de corta estatura, el reformador cuáquero Benjamin Lay fue una figura grande del emergente movimiento antiesclavista del siglo XVIII. Testigo de los horrores de la esclavitud siendo comerciante en Barbados, Lay se dedicó al abolicionismo. En 1731 se fue a Pensilvania y allí continuó su campaña, escribiendo panfletos y hablando en reuniones de los cuáqueros. En aquel tiempo, varios miembros de la Sociedad Religiosa de Amigos, nombre formal de los cuáqueros, tenían personas esclavizadas y partici paban en su comercio.
Este retrato de Lay perteneció a la esposa de Benjamin Franklin, Deborah. Aunque Franklin tuvo esclavos, su imprenta había publicado en 1738 el folleto abolicionista de Lay “Todos los esclavistas que mantienen a inocentes en servidumbre, apóstatas”. Aquí Lay aparece delante de su hogar, que semeja una cueva, sosteniendo un tratado “sobre la feli cidad” del filósofo cuáquero inglés Thomas Tryon. A poco de su muerte, la Sociedad de Amigos de Filadelfia aprobó una resolución para expulsar a los miembros que traficaran con esclavos.
Provenance
(Brown Brothers Auction, Buckingham, Penn., 1976); purchased by (Patrick Bell and Edwin Hild, Jr., Olde Hope Antiques, New Hope, Pa.); purchased 1979 NPG
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery