Cinque, The Chief of the Amistad Captives
Joseph Cinqué (ca. 1814–ca. 1879), also known as Sengbe Pieh, was Mende from the Upper Guinea Coast. He helped lead a revolt of many Africans on the Spanish slave ship, La Amistad. Robert Purvis, a leading black abolitionist from Philadelphia, commissioned this studio portrait. Jocelyn was an abolitionist sympathizer. Cinqué is shown in a toga, rather than in traditional Mende clothing. His facial features seem to have been made less African than they actually appeared. For details on Cinque see, for example, John W. Barber, A History of the Amistad Captives (New Haven, Connecticut, 1840) and Mary Cable, Black Odyssey: The Case of the Slave Ship Amistad (New York, 1971). For details on this painting, see Eleanor Alexander, "A Portrait of Cinque," Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, 49 (1984), p. 31-51; and M. Harris, Colored Pictures (University of North Carolina Press, 2003), p. 34-36. A slide of the image shown here was made from an unidentified secondary source. See also Harris (above) and Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art (Menil Foundation, Harvard University Press, 1989), vol. 4, pt. 1, p. 158, fig. 96.
Painted by Nathaniel Jocelyn, 1840. Painting held by New Haven Colony Historical Society.
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"Cinque, The Chief of the Amistad Captives ", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed February 21, 2020, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/2545