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Robert Vernon

This person is the subject of ongoing research. We have started by researching their relationship to the enslavement of people.

Biographical notes

Art Collector and patron.

Slavery connections

No known connections with slavery.

Abolition connections

Vernon’s collection included John Simpson’s Head of a Man (?Ira Frederick Aldridge) (Tate N00382), which had been exhibited as Head of a Black at the exhibition of the British Institution in 1827. According to Tate’s catalogue, ‘The painting is closely linked to John Simpson’s larger subject painting The Captive Slave of 1827, which reappeared on the art market and was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, showing the same sitter but in half-length format, manacled to a bench. That painting was exhibited in London in 1827, accompanied by lines from William Cowper’s anti-slavery poem ’Charity‘ (1782). Although the slave trade had been made illegal within the British Empire in 1807, slavery continued in British colonies until the 1830s and remained a hugely divisive political issue. Simpson’s paintings can, therefore, be interpreted as interventions in an ongoing dispute about race and slavery’. (Martin Myrone, ‘John Simpson, Head of a Man (?Ira Frederick Aldridge)’, Tate [online], September 2013, <> accessed 4 August 2021. For further details of the painting, see Martin Postle, ‘"The Captive Slave" by John Simpson (1782-1847): A rediscovered masterpiece’, The British Art Journal, vol. 9, no. 3, 2009, 18–26; JSTOR, <> accessed 4 August 2021.

National Gallery painting connections

Donor: presented in 1847: NG301–457 (the collection is now divided between the NG and Tate).


R. Hamlyn, 'Vernon, Robert', in J. Turner et al. (eds), Grove Art Online, Oxford 1998-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website

History of Parliament Trust (ed.), The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History, London 1964-,
Checked and not foundItem on publisher's website

UCL Department of History (ed.), Legacies of British Slave-ownership, London 2020,
Checked and not foundItem on publisher's website

S. Whittingham, 'Vernon, Robert', in C. Matthew et al. (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 1992-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website