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The East offering its riches to Britannia

About the author
Nick Robins is head of socially responsible investment research at an investing company in the City of London.

the East

ship detail

"The East offering its riches to Britannia"
by Spiridione Roma.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London
Reproduced by permission of the British Library (Foster 245)



On the horizon in this allegorical painting, Roma depicts an East India Company ship, identifiable by its East India Company flag, the cross of St George and stripes.

India
In the foreground two women, each representing parts of the world 'conquered' by the Company, namely India and China, queue to offer goods to Britannia. The swarthy figure representing India presents pearls, which Britannia eagerly takes up.

China
China offers a Ming vase, and a teachest is at her knees. The shadowy figures behind her are bearing bundles of raw cotton.

Britannia herself

Mercury
Mercury (Roman messenger god of "eloquence, skill and thieving") stands aloft, supervising the scene.

Thames
While Old Father Thames sits bottom left, symbolising London, and London's power.

Britannia's escort
The putti in Britannia's escort.
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