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Portraits: under the skin

A ‘menagerie of young heathen’: Enslaved children in a Scottish household and the legacy of the childhood trauma of enslavement

David Alston gave a presentation on this topic, based on the portrait below, at:

Encountering Children of Empire symposium (The National Trust for Scotland and Beniba Centre for Slavery Studies, University of Glasgow) at Culzean Castle (14 and 15 September 2023). Click on the picture of Salvador to read a full version of David's research.

Salvador: An Enslaved African Boy (c.1719–c.1733?)

Salvador was an enslaved African boy in the household of George Keith (1692/3?–1778), tenth and last of the Earls Marischal of Scotland,

Click on the picture to download an account of Salvador and the other enslaved children in the Earl's 'ménagerie of young heathen’: Ibrahim (a Turk, who trained as an artist in Venice), Stepan (a Kalmyk Buddhist), Mocho (an African who travelled Europe) and Emet Ullah (a Turk who met Voltaire, Rousseau, James Boswell and Adam Ferguson –and was known to David Hume).

Click below to see an image of the original painting in the National Portrait Gallery:

George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal attributed to Placido Costanzi
oil on copper, circa 1733.







Emet Ullah

This portrait was part of the Elphinstone Collection at Carberry Tower, before Carberry was gifted to the Church of Scotland in 1961. It was named ‘Portrait of a Turkish lady’ and there is a stock photograph on Alamy (detail right). Does anyone now where the original is?

The portrait is of a remarkable woman, Emet Ullah. Born in the 1720s she was captured as a girl at the sack of the Ottoman stronghold of Ochakow (Ukraine) in 1737, ‘given’ to George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal (the exiled Jacobite) and brought up by him in a multi-cultural household which included the remarkable 'Ménagerie of Young Heathen’ known to Voltaire: Emet Ullah, Mocho from Guinea, Stepan (a Buddhist Kalmyk from the north Caucuses) and Ibrahim (another Turk). She knew Voltaire and Rousseau, travelled with James Boswell and the Earl by coach from Utrecht to Berlin in 1764 (Boswell was attracted to her and flirted), and both David Hume and Adam Ferguson knew of her. She lived in Paris, Berlin, Potsdam, Berlin and Neichatel. She was in Edinburgh in 1764 with the Earl — and there is a ribald joke about her in a letter from Ferguson to Hume. She lived into her 90s and died at Neuchatel in 1820.

Click on the image for an account of her life.


The Cruikshanks of Gorton (Strathspey) and St Vincent

These portraits by Henry Raeburn of Mr and Mrs James Cruikshank hang in the Frick Museum, New York.

Click on either image to read about the Cruikshanks' origins in Strathspey, their history of slave-holdin in St Vincent, and their estates in Scotland. This also described their role in the expulsion of the Black Caribs (the Garifuna) from St Vincent.




For my presentation to North East Scotland Colonial Connections conference (June 2021) follow this link to the Art, Architecture & North East Landscape session. My contribution is 33 minutes into the discussion.

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