Mystery of 18th Century Watercolour of Unknown Plantation in Jamaica Solved

In 2006 the Yale Center for British Art at Yale University, with money from the Paul Mellon Fund, purchased an 18th Century Watercolour of an unknown Sugar Plantation in the Island of Jamaica from the firm of Abbott & Holder in London. The Watercolour was unsigned and the Artist unknown, but in the upper left-hand corner of the painting was a graphite inscription, “Mona, Liguanea”. This was obviously a reference to Mona Estate , a Sugar Plantation located on the Liguanea Plain in St. Andrew, Jamaica. Despite this Scholars at Yale University came to the astounding, although completely erroneous conclusion, that the Sugar Plantation depicted in the Watercolour was actually Halse Hall Estate in Clarendon. Although they offered no explanation or proof for this assertion, these same Scholars from Yale University boldly included a copy of the Watercolour, which they had mistakenly identified as Halse Hall Estate, in their book “Art and Emancipation in Jamaica” published in 2007. If only those Scholars had reached out to me, I could have revealed to them the true identity of the Sugar Plantation in the Watercolour and also identified for them the Artist who painted it. The fact is I recognised the Watercolour as soon as I saw it, because I have¬† in my Collection an Early 19th Century Black & White Engraving of the same view obviously copies from the original Watercolour. The Engraving is of Hall-Head Estate, St. Thomas-in-the-East, Jamaica and is by C. J. Kennion and dated 1816. It is an exact¬† copy of the 18th Century Watercolour, which was actually painted about 1790 by his father, Edward Kennion. The senior Mr. Kennion had formerly been a Sugar Planter in Jamaica, where his family had owned three large Sugar Plantations, Hall-Head Estate, Mona Estate and Holland Estate. The Early 19th Century Engraving of Hall-Head Estate St. Thomas-on-the East, Jamaica was published in The Colonial Journal, Volume I, Issues 1 -2, in September, 1816, with the following description:

HALL-HEAD Sugar Plantation, the property of John Hall, Esq. of Liverpool, is situate in the parish of St. Thomas in the East, in the island of Jamaica.In the year 1760, the Hall-head Estate, together with the Holland and Mona Estates, were in the possession of the late John Kennion, Esq. also of the vicinity of Liverpool. Mr. Kennion, in his life-time, sold the Holland Estate to Simon Taylor, Esq. for the sum of one hundred and nine thousand pounds. The Mona Estate is at present the property of — Milner, Esq. The Hall-head Estate, which supplies the present view, was bequeathed by Mr. Kennion to his cousins, John and — Hall, Esquires, the former of whom has since purchased his brother’s share.

The late Mr. Edward Kennion, from whose sketch the drawing for the engraving has been made by Mr. C. J. Kennion, his son, and who, by a commission, dated 11th April, 1769 was appointed an aid-de-camp to Sir William Trelawney, then Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Island, superintended, for some years, the estate of his relative, Mr. John Kennion. Mr. Kennion, in addition to a general taste for drawing, indulged in a peculiar attention to the faithful representation of trees, specimens of which talent he has introduced into the landscape before.

The tree on the left of the picture is the common Cocoa or Cocoa-nut tree, the Coccos of Linnaeus, and Palma Indica of Ray. The Cocoa is planted in most of the tropical parts of America, both for its beauty and productions. It prefers low situations, often grows to a great height, and bears all its foliage at the top, like the rest of the palm kind. The nut, or rather the shell, contains, while young, only a sweetish water; but this liquid, as maturity advances, deposits a gelatinous crust on the sides of the shell, which gradually hardens with age, until it acquires the strong concreted texture with which it is commonly seen in Europe. In its watery state, it is esteemed one of the greatest dainties of the countries of which it is a native. When more advanced, the kernel is very nourishing, and will supply the place of almonds, in milk and emulsions.

The tree on the right of the picture is the Banana-tree, a species of Plantane (Musa caudice maculata, Slo. Cat. 192.) This tree is cultivated in all the sugar-colonies, though with less industry than the common plantane, because its fruit, which, however, is said to destroy worms in children, is less generally relished. The fruit of the common plantane supplies a principal part of the sustenance of the negroes and poorer white persons. It is generally eaten at its full growth, but before it is ripe, and commonly peeled and roasted, and thus served at table, or distributed among the negroes. Many white persons prefer it to anything else of the bread kind, especially while young and tender. The negroes generally boil it with saltfish, beef, or crabs, &c. and find them a hearty wholesome food. As the fruit ripens, it becomes soft and sweetish, and is then generally made into tarts, or sliced and fried with butter, and thus served up in plates.

If only those Yale Scholars had come to me. As a Collector and Dealer in 18th and Early 19th Century Jamaican Colonial Prints, and as an Authority on the Subject, I could have saved them a lot of time, trouble and embarrassment. Perhaps next time.