Ignatius Sancho was a British writer, composer, business owner, and abolitionist. He was celebrated in the late 18th-century as a man of letters, a social reformer and an acute observer of English life. Sancho was a former Enslaved African who advocated for abolition through prolific letter-writing and became the first person of African descent to cast a vote in a British general election.
The portrait is loosely based on a painting by Thomas Gainsborough painted in 1768 and was commissioned by @Bankside_London for their Frost Fair mural trail curated by @lawless_studio
Between 1600 and 1814, it was not uncommon for the river Thames to freeze over for up to two months at a time. During this time Britain and the entire Northern Hemisphere was locked in what is now known as the ‘Little Ice Age’. British winter was more severe than it is now, and the river was wider and slower, further impeded by the 19 piers of the medieval Old London Bridge. Harsh winters often brought with them famine and death, but enterprising Londoners decided to make the most of it and set up the Thames Frost Fairs. Between 1607 and 1814 there were a total of seven major fairs, as well as many smaller ones. The Frost Fairs would have been quite a spectacle, full of quickly constructed shops, pubs and ice-skating rinks and at one fair an elephant was led across the river just below Blackfriars Bridge.
Ignatius Sancho was born in 1729 and died in 1780. He lived in Greenwich as a child then later in Blackheath. During his lifetime a Frost Fair occurred in 1739–40 so tentatively I would like to imagine that he would have attended this fair as a child, given his close proximity to the Thames.
Thanks to my team Thirty pound gentleman @lifinearts Mellymellove & Merissa hyltonart
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