"In 17th and 18th century Europe, Black children trafficked from the African continent were used in visual art as a prop to highlight both the wealth and whiteness of their European enslavers. A regular feature of this Black child adornment was to add an expensive pearl earring to their decoration. The enslaved child was not seen as a person, but as a property that signified the wealth of the people or family who commissioned the portrait performance."
By Thomas Rowlandson - yes - that Rowlandson, the celebrated Georgian caricaturist, famed for his b***y satirical and political cartoons, who, after studying at the Royal Academy, produced a small number of strong portraits before turning to illustration.
Thomas Rowlandson (London, 1756-1827). Watercolor over pencil, signed, circa 1785.
See this lovely child at The Philadelphia Show, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, April 27-30.
The Philadelphia Show Philadelphia Museum of Art