A portrait of famously brutal colonial Trinidad governor Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton has been removed from Amgueddfa Cymru's "Faces of Wales" gallery.

Its place in the gallery is now taken by "Hedger and Ditcher: Portrait of William Lloyd", a portrait by Dutch artist Albert Houthuesen, who became fascinated with the working life of the colliers he saw in Trelogan, Flintshire, whilst on holiday with his wife there in the 1930s.

The National Wales: The museum's portrait of Sir Thomas Picton (left) has been replaced with a portrait of a Welsh worker by Dutch artist Albert Houthuesen (source: Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales, Albert Houthuesen Trust and Bridgeman Art Library)The museum's portrait of Sir Thomas Picton (left) has been replaced with a portrait of a Welsh worker by Dutch artist Albert Houthuesen (source: Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales, Albert Houthuesen Trust and Bridgeman Art Library)

Kath Davies, Director of Collections and Research at Amgueddfa Cymru said: “This is another important step for Amgueddfa Cymru in examining our national collections, and thinking about who we display in our Faces of Wales gallery and why.

"This project replaces one artwork - which assigns great importance to someone whose actions as Governor of Trinidad even at the time were seen as cruel - with a celebratory portrait of a worker - someone we could today consider to be a hero."

The museum says the Picton portrait will be "reinterpreted" and put back on display as part of its Reframing Picton project in the coming months.

Work by Black artists - Trinidadian and Tobagonian multi-disciplinary artist Gesiye, and UK-based collective Laku Neg, also of Trinidadian heritage - has been commissioned for the project and will be displayed alongside Picton's portrait in an exhibition seeking to re-examine the notorious Welsh officer's legacy.

Fadhili Maghiya, Director of the Sub Sahara Advisory Panel added: “As we aim to build a Wales that is inclusive, built on the foundations of equality and one which focuses on community cohesion and is appreciative of the different cultures that exist in our country, we need to celebrate those who are representative of the society we live in.

"Those individuals should be displayed on the Faces of Wales Gallery."

Amgueddfa Cymru and Arts Council Wales were themselves recently found to be "institutionally racist" in a report by the Welsh Anti-Racist Union.

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Thomas Picton was born in Pembrokeshire in the 18th century. A British Army officer of the Napoleonic Wars, Picton was killed during the famous Battle of Waterloo. 

But before his death in battle, Picton was most famous for his cruel and violent reign as the colonial governor of Trinidad.

After the island nation was seized from the Spanish in the late 1700s, Picton was charged with keeping control of the island as governor. 

The National Wales: Modern day Trinidad. Picton ruled the island nation as governor in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Modern day Trinidad. Picton ruled the island nation as governor in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

He approached the task with vicious brutality.

“He set about dispensing a brand of justice that was seldom tempered by mercy," remarked historian Chris Evans in 2018.

"The island’s population was cowed by a wave of exemplary executions.

“As for the growing numbers of forced African labourers - they were subjected to a slave code of Picton’s own design.

“Delinquents who were sent for immediate execution might consider themselves lucky; others had to endure mutilation and torture."

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Most notable was his trial for the torture of Luisa Calderón, a fourteen-year-old mixed-race girl who was accused of being involved in the theft of £500 from a businessman in the country's capital.

Luisa's mother had arranged for the girl to live with this businessman, Pedro Ruiz, as a "mistress" from the age of 11, and it was suspected Luisa had helped someone break into the home to take the money. This was never proven.

The National Wales: Artist's impression of Luisa Calderon's torture from the time. (Source: Amgueddfa Cymru)Artist's impression of Luisa Calderon's torture from the time. (Source: Amgueddfa Cymru)

Unable to secure Luisa's confession through interrogation, Picton issued the order for her to undergo torture by "piqueting" - which the prosecutor at his trial dubbed "Pictoning". 

Luisa was suspended by one arm from the ceiling and lowered onto a blunt wooden stake set in the floor, bare foot first. This technique was sometimes used to punish soldiers, and was said to be excrutiatingly painful - but Luisa never confessed, and was released after 8 months imprisonment.

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Lt Gen Picton was found guilty at his trial but never sentenced. After his death at Waterloo the case was all but forgotten, and plaques, statues and portraits were erected around Wales in his honour. 

Cardiff Council voted to remove Picton's statue from City Hall's "Hall of Welsh Heroes" just last year.

Denbigh recently voted to keep its statue of infamous colonial explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who was born in the town. Stanley was instrumental in the colonisation of the Congo by Belgian King Leopold II, and was considered a particularly brutal man even for his time.

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