Cyrus Bruce (dates unknown)
Richard Haynes Jr. (b. 1949)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 2018
Oil and wax-based crayons on paper
39 ¼ x 29 in.
Gift of the artist
In 1783, Cyrus Bruce, a formerly enslaved black man, began working for Governor John Langdon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he was admired for his “gentlemanly appearance.” Few people in Bruce’s situation were recorded for posterity, so in 2018, when Haynes, an African American artist from Portsmouth, undertook a residency at Historic New England’s Langdon House, he had to imagine the servant’s appearance. This pose suggests Bruce’s authority, and his shadow seems to move forward toward new opportunities. Yet the door knocker resembles a question mark, leading us to wonder about Bruce’s fate. You can see Richard Haynes at work on this portrait in 2018 in the photo at left.