Painting of young lady piercing the ear of her black servant Contributor: Nantes History Museum, Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
This painting evokes a subject for which there is no known illustration: the presence of Africans in Nantes. A 1777 census carried out in Brittany counted approximately 700 slaves in the city, most of them domestics, despite the fact that it was illegal for them to live in France. Indeed, black slaves were authorized in France only for their religious education or the learning of a profession. In reality, many wealthy families of Nantes, having interests in the colonies, brought Africans and their descendants to Nantes to serve as domestics. Among this population were an important number of free blacks, including emancipated or freed slaves.