Black Cultural Archives calls for bidders to save significant historical artwork to stay in Britain


Auction house Christie’s has announced the sale of a rare portrait of Ignatius Sancho – artist unknown. This rare depiction of one of Britain’s historical figures represents the extent of Black presence in Britain, which far exceeds the popular migratory narrative of the Windrush arrival in 1948.

The sitter, Ignatius Sancho, was the first Briton of African heritage to vote in a British election and was a celebrated writer, composer and musician. Renowned for his efforts towards the British abolitionist movement, Sancho became a symbol of the humanity of Africans and immorality of the slave trade.

The rare portrait goes on sale Thursday 13 September 2018 and it will go on view to the public on Friday 14, through to next Wednesday 19.

Black Cultural Archives is national repository for collections that document the histories of Black Britain. Its archive collections dates back to 211AD and aims to rewrite the historical narrative in Britain to become more inclusive. Dawn Hill CBE, Black Cultural Archives Chair viewed the significant piece and comments, ‘we express great interest in this significant portrait and call for bidders to come forward to ensure this artwork remains in Britain.’

In 2015, BCA exhibited Black Georgians – The Shock of the Familiar curated by historian S. I. Martin that showcased the presence and contributions people of African descent in Britain throughout the Georgian period of 1714-1837. BCA’s exhibition featured Ignatius Sancho, often described as freedom writer whose efforts contributed to the emancipation of enslaved peoples. The Letters of Ignatius Sancho are one of the earliest accounts by an African documenting their experience as an enslaved person in Britain. Sancho sits alongside historical figures such as Phyllis Wheatley (1733-1784) the first Black woman published in Britain and Olaudah Equiano (c.1747-1797) whose prominence became renowned as one of the first political leaders for the Black Britons during the Georgian period. Individuals such as Ignatius Sancho contributed to the pressure and raised awareness to the grotesque immorality of the enslavement of African peoples through the power of literature and expression.

BCA’s mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain. Its work engages with learners and the general public to share and promote a broader understanding of British history. Through its expansive collection BCA ensures that these histories are visible and accessible to everyone.

Auction lot: English School, circa 1770 after Thomas Gainsborough (British, 1727-1788). For more information about the portrait view online catalogue

For enquires regarding the artwork contact Christies’ Client Service via or London +44 (0)20 7839 9060.