Edinburgh milkmaid with butter churn by David Allan A5 postcard

Item Size:
21 x 14.8 cm

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A5 (21 x 14.8 cm) single postcard featuring Edinburgh milkmaid with butter churn by David Allan, part of the National Galleries of Scotland Collection.

This is one of the earliest known portraits of a black woman by a Scottish artist. We do not know her name or her life story, but it is most likely that she was a servant. The large vessel, or butter churn, shown beside her suggests she may have been a milkmaid.

David Allan (13 February 1744 – 6 August 1796) was a Scottish painter and illustrator, known as an established portrait painter, David Allan became interested in drawing scenes of street life while working in Italy in the 1770s and continued after his return to Scotland in 1779.

He made a series of drawings of Edinburgh’s Street vendors, workers and city officials. These are often generalised depictions of these occupations, but this beautifully detailed watercolour is clearly a portrait of a specific person.