People of Color in European Art History


  1. elyssediamond submitted to medievalpoc:

Portrait of Madam Soucarières and her page (Madame de Soucarières et son serviteur noir)Nicolas de Largillière (French, 1656–1746)Oil on canvasPrivate Collection

    elyssediamond submitted to medievalpoc:

    Portrait of Madam Soucarières and her page (Madame de Soucarières et son serviteur noir)
    Nicolas de Largillière (French, 1656–1746)
    Oil on canvas
    Private Collection

  2. r-stern wrote...

    About that Rubens reblog: maybe you should warn people that most Renaissance painter weren't trying to be historically accurate and just painted the past with character of their owns time periods, especially if the theme wasn't Roman or Greek.

    scribbleowl:

    medievalpoc:

    Honestly I should say that about like, every Renaissance work I post, but I’m not really sure there would be a point. Most of the people who take issue with my posting of Renaissance art…I seriously doubt the finer points of Renaissance Anachronism is something I care to debate with that sort. I think taking screenshots of reddit comments reeks of desperation quite enough, and I don’t think I could engage without causing me to actually die of vicarious embarrassment.

    But I this this be something a lot of readers could be unaware of. It’s pervasive in Medieval European art as well-most biblical scenes involve figured wearing clothes accurate to the time the painting was done, not the time of the bible. Botticelli rather famously painted himself into his massive Adoration of the Magi- along with half the living Medicis at the time (lol). Of course, we don’t know for SURE if it’s him, any more than we can know anything for sure.

    Although if you really want an anachronistic inception, this is a Baroque portrait of a scene depicting Biblical events, where the Black model (the Chamberlain to the Queen of Ethiopia in the story) is dressed as a Roman soldier:

    Because hey, why not, right? You can read some more on the art history involved with this topic here. You can read more on how these paintings were done based on sketches of Black models living in the Netherlands at the time the painting was done here. A little more on process and function here.

    medievalpoc tagged: Peter Paul Rubens

    TL;DR: Medieval and Renaissance Art reflects the fashions and people at the time/place the painting was made, not necessarily that of the time/place the events depicted were supposed to have.

    ^^^ the point up here is an important one, but also i need to derail for a minute and say that i still get a little jolt when i see dark-skinned people included in art styles that are considered High Culture. and i am still SO pissed that i literally didn’t knew any of these artworks existed until this blog.

    High Culture is such a closely controlled and guarded artifact, and for much of my life, i genuinely didn’t believe people like me had ever had a place in it. and that’s because that is a narrative that MANY people are deeply invested in maintaining. this knowledge is empowering, and it’s considered dangerous for that reason.

    but just. look. these paintings exist. WE exist, despite all the forces trying to suppress people of color. that brings me comfort.

    I think this blog gets a lot of controversy, which can foment negativity, but it’s an essentially positive resource for myself and others. It makes me really happy when other people feel the same way I do about it.

  3. judyblumesdiary wrote...

    You mentioned a story as being present in "macmac" native Indian tradition in a recent post. If you meant "Micmac" (which you may not have and if you didn't, don't mind me) the more accurate and preferred is Mi'kmaq (also sometimes migmaw or mi'kmaw if you really need something that reads closer to the English pronunciation)

    Sorry should have included that it was in the immortality post! (Maybe you get too many asks and won’t connect these two in time for it to be helpful - again sorry!

    The sad part is I’m aware of most of the spellings and of course none of them is what I put. It was a typo on “Micmac”, and I’ve fixed it in the original post now. I used the same spelling from the source, and spelling preference does vary. Honestly there’s a lot of frustration inherent in trying to communicate effectively between Native Americans and dominant American culture. Most of the time I’m like, “Lakota” and they’re like “wut” and i’m like, “You know, like, Sioux?” and they’re like “wut” and I’m like, “Native American??” and they like “You mean like the Indians? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one!!!”  :(

    So anyhow, thanks for taking the time to let me know about that. It’s bad enough without my typos.

  4. r-stern wrote...

    About that Rubens reblog: maybe you should warn people that most Renaissance painter weren't trying to be historically accurate and just painted the past with character of their owns time periods, especially if the theme wasn't Roman or Greek.

    Honestly I should say that about like, every Renaissance work I post, but I’m not really sure there would be a point. Most of the people who take issue with my posting of Renaissance art…I seriously doubt the finer points of Renaissance Anachronism is something I care to debate with that sort. I think taking screenshots of reddit comments reeks of desperation quite enough, and I don’t think I could engage without causing me to actually die of vicarious embarrassment.

    But I this this be something a lot of readers could be unaware of. It’s pervasive in Medieval European art as well-most biblical scenes involve figured wearing clothes accurate to the time the painting was done, not the time of the bible. Botticelli rather famously painted himself into his massive Adoration of the Magi- along with half the living Medicis at the time (lol). Of course, we don’t know for SURE if it’s him, any more than we can know anything for sure.

    Although if you really want an anachronistic inception, this is a Baroque portrait of a scene depicting Biblical events, where the Black model (the Chamberlain to the Queen of Ethiopia in the story) is dressed as a Roman soldier:

    Because hey, why not, right? You can read some more on the art history involved with this topic here. You can read more on how these paintings were done based on sketches of Black models living in the Netherlands at the time the painting was done here. A little more on process and function here.

    medievalpoc tagged: Peter Paul Rubens

    TL;DR: Medieval and Renaissance Art reflects the fashions and people at the time/place the painting was made, not necessarily that of the time/place the events depicted were supposed to have.

  5. Master of the Antiphonar of Padua; The Divine Comedy

    f. 123r: Beatrice sitting among the seven virtues.

    Italy (c. 1330-40)

    Illuminated Manuscript, 390 x 260 mm.

    [x] [x]

    Bonus Round: different perspectives

  6. ☛ On Eurasia

    mirtabrkulj:

    medievalpoc:

    cenosillicaphobiac replied to your post: cenosillicaphobiac asked:Hi medie…

    Sorry! As some of the other notes have said, I meant this sort of thing: “Of course. Asia and Europe aren’t even a separate landmass, after all.” (on your Europe tag) -> arbitrary line down the Eurasian continent…

    The idea of Europe and Asia being culturally two different, separate worlds is pretty laughable for us who live closer to the “border”… I mean, throughout our (Croatian) entire history the basic theme is “oh god no the Ottomans are trying to conquer us”. I think pretty much everyone in these parts is more-or-less aware that the Ottomans were here and that their Empire was huge and stretched far to the East as well. I mean, just look at how damn huge it was.

    What is happening in Croatia now is a striving to be recognized as a part of the “West” (we recently got into the EU, that helps). The general idea is: West=culture, Vienna, civilized, Europe; East=primitive, Balkans, ‘polluted’ by Ottoman influence, barbaric, ew. The average Croat who likes to think of themselves as cultured and civilized will cringe at the thought of being associated with the Balkans or Eastern Europe. They prefer being considered a part of Central Europe, something close to Austria… Children in school are trained to think this way, too. I remember that our geography teacher in high school spent like half an hour proving to us that: 1) the Balkan peninsula doesn’t exist as a geographical term (as if that’s important) and 2) even if it did, Croatia wouldn’t be considered a part of it.

    Not to mention that we’re on the Mediterranean. I think hope people are aware that this sea connects Europe, Asia & Africa and that various peoples inhabiting these parts had ships. I live in a place that has been populated by so many different peoples and conquered by several multi-ethnic empires* and instead of being excited and curious about all those different cultural influences, people consider anything and everything eastern negative and undesirable and consciously reject it.

    *ok yeah all those different cultures, peoples and religions is one of the reasons for these parts to be full of conflicts, but that’s no reason to reject variety and strive for uniformity and “westerness”

    I’m sorry, I kind of went off-topic here  and this turned into a kind of a rant ://

    Ohhhhhh.

    Thanks for this perspective, and it sheds a bit more light on some of the rather scary backlash I got from the Czech Republic over this game.

    They seemed pretty obsessed with the idea that I was only talking about Black people (with the predictable torrent of explicitly anti-Black racism), and I kept saying, “I’m trying to say Asia is literally like right there and also there was a lot of war and Empire-making, read the text sources ffs”, and I didn’t realize there was so much anti-Asian sentiment happening in Central Europe overall. Maybe I should have since I knew how bad the antiziganism is.

    No one really bothered to respond much to any of the stuff I posted on the documented immigration into that area, during and immediately preceding the time in question (including varying perspectives). I guess it’s just easier to screech racial slurs than admit that the xenophobia is apparently a more modern occurrence than a historical one?(warning: link is actually pretty antiziganist. wtf?)

    I’ll go ahead and post the map you linked to:

    As I said in the OP, I really have no clue on many existing biases going on in modern Europe-because, of course, I’m American!-but it still affects us, as you can see with the issue over the game.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences. It’s definitely a learning experience for me.

  7. Hubert Robert 
Les Bains d’Apollon (detail)
France (1775)
The work, commissioned by Louis XVI in 1775 and presented at the Salon of 1777, represents the gardens of Versailles at the time of logging. (National Palace of Versailles.)
[x] [x]

    Hubert Robert

    Les Bains d’Apollon (detail)

    France (1775)

    The work, commissioned by Louis XVI in 1775 and presented at the Salon of 1777, represents the gardens of Versailles at the time of logging. (National Palace of Versailles.)

    [x] [x]

  8. 4and20blkbirds wrote...

    Hi! A classmate of mine did a presentation today on Byzantine encaustic icons, one of which was a saint/Christ image who looked like a person of color to my modern eyes. I couldn't find the image she showed or I would link to it. I didn't see any encaustic works under your Byzantine tag, but it's a really cool medium and if you happen to know more about Byzantine encaustic works I would love to hear it! Or perhaps it's at least a lead for possible content :). Thank you for your awesome blog!

    Oh, I’ve featured quite a number of encaustic works here, but this blog doesn’t really focus on artistic techniques. But you asked so nicely and I like encaustic paintings. Here’s a post I did a while ago on how the encaustic technique came up via Egypt and the Fayum Mummy Portraits-and its influence on some of the oldest and most revered European icons, including the famous and beautiful Russian Icons. There’s a few more here.

    For people who don’t know, encaustic painting is done by adding pigments to hot wax, which are then applied to a surface, usually a wood panel. It looks lovely, and is very good at preserving the original color (especially on wooden panels, tempera and oil paintings on panels have a higher chance of becoming warped or damaged).

    I believe I also mentioned that this technique is why some of the original Black Madonnas of Europe resisted or utterly foiled attempts to repaint them with white or lighter skin.

    Did you know that you can still get encaustic painting supplies, if you would like to try this technique?

    Contemporary encaustic painting is really interesting!

    image

    Hands. Marybeth Rothman, 2011

  9. On Eurasia

    cenosillicaphobiac replied to your post: cenosillicaphobiac asked:Hi medie…

    Sorry! As some of the other notes have said, I meant this sort of thing: “Of course. Asia and Europe aren’t even a separate landmass, after all.” (on your Europe tag) -> arbitrary line down the Eurasian continent of ‘other’?

    Oh! I just meant political boundaries=/=physical impediment to travel. A lot of people seem to have very strange ideas about that.

    Especially when that particular political boundary didn’t exist yet by a good margin. Also, the separation still doesn’t actually exist in many places.

    As for “arbitrary”, it doesn’t mean “completely random”. Everything named by humans serves a purpose for humans, in this case presumably Europeans, since they were the ones who decided they were separate.

    I can only speak to American ideas about this, after all. In the U.S. the idea that Europe was completely culturally and geographically isolated (and racially isolated) for pretty much the entirety of human history is very popular and widely accepted. It’s also not true.

    How this belief can co-exist with The Silk Road also being (fairly) common knowledge, I don’t really understand. And the Crusades. And the Roman Empire. And the Mongolian, Ottoman, and Byzantine Empires. Vikings. Al-Andalus.

    So, I explore that.

    I mean, this is exactly how it goes: A film or show comes out cast entirely with white people, even though it’s meant for a pretty diverse American audience.

    Viewers and fans of color are like, “wow, why isn’t anyone who looks like me on this show, or on TV/in movies, like, ever?”

    White fans are like, “how dare you? It’s a European [inspiration/source/book/fairy tale]. Everyone to the last person, every single last human, in Europe was white back then (pretty much no matter when. or where.)”

    I’m like, “That doesn’t make any sense if you think about it for two seconds, for about a million reasons (supernatural elements in the source, documented historical precedence, source being 100% fiction, historical facts, et cet).”

    White viewers/fans: "I want to shoot you in the head."

    Me: :(

    So, anyways, that is the purpose that the boundary between Asia and Europe serves for a lot of white Americans. Who think that ideas like an Asian Robin Hood would be laughable and inaccurate, who throw hissy fits over a biracial man playing Porthos in the Three Musketeers TV show despite the fact that the book was written by a mixed race author, who can’t stand Angel Coulby playing Guinevere or Sinqua Walls playing Lancelot (despite the existence of Sir Morien and several other knights of color in Arthurian canon), who are willing to become actually violent over protecting the ubiquitous whiteness of Disney films like Brave and Frozen, or video games, or really any other piece of fiction.

    The supposed isolation of Europe during previous eras is used to perpetrate and excuse violence and racism in America, right now.

    It shouldn’t be controversial to point out that Europe and Asia are literally the same landmass:

    image

    But in this context, it becomes very relevant, and sadly, controversial. I’m pretty bad with geography, but I’m not that bad.

    All I’m actually saying is, “you may notice you can get to Europe by walking there from almost anywhere in Asia.”

    And it’s like…it’s understood that there have been Europeans of color who’ve lived there for centuries….

    image

    but at the same time, no people of color, ever?

    And this isn’t even getting into the whole “people had boats since 5ever” factor. Australia has been populated for 40,000-ish years, after all.

    So we come back to the question: What separates Asia and Europe? The answer is, essentially, nothing. Another answer is: human social constructs. Yet another answer is: distance. Another: a political boundary.

    But maybe we get a little more mileage out of NEW questions: What purpose does this boundary serve, and whom does it serve? What ideas are attached to it? Why do we care?

    As you can see, this doesn’t have a ton to do with people who are Europeans, doing their thing in Europe right now…other than Europeans of color who apparently have had their histories in their nations left out or called “unimportant”.

    Like I’ve said, I’m American and I can’t speak for Europeans. I’ve never claimed to, but I find their (your) input quite valuable.

    As for “the standard argument” you refer to in your original ask, I honestly am not sure what that’s referring to. This is what I mean when I talk about these things, and some practical examples of why I use these terms the way I do. I hope it helped.

  10. unfantasmarecoreeuropa submitted to medievalpoc:

    Christoph Weiditz´s Trachtenbuch

    Weiditz was a german artist of the XVIth century at the service of the Habsburgs who dedicated a year painting the everyday of the people of the territories of Spain, including, Netherlands, Rousillon and the both Sicilies.

    In his drawings we can see, among paintings of other spanish people without any reference to otherness, black people and moriscos.

    He also painted some aztecs brought from Nueva España to the royal court, that are some of the first images known of aztec people drawn from life.

    Sources:

    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christoph_Weiditz

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Trachtenbuch_des_Christoph_Weiditz

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Christoph_Weiditz

    http://viaf.org/viaf/59421291/

    http://catalogue.bnf.fr/servlet/RechercheEquation;jsessionid=E881875E735E237F1EC10CA41097FF22?TexteCollection=HGARSTUVWXYZ1DIECBMJNQLOKP&TexteTypeDoc=DESNFPIBTMCJOV&Equation=IDP%3Dcb158503661&host=catalogue

    http://www.smith.edu/vistas/vistas_web/gallery/detail/aztec-juggler.htm

    Hampe, Theodor. 1994 [1927]. Authentic Everyday Dress of the Renaissance: All 154 Plates from the “Trachtenbuch.” New York: Dover Publications.

    Massing, Jean Michel. 1991. “Early European Images of America: The Ethnographic Approach.” In Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, Jay Levenson, ed., pp. 515-520. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art.

    Ausgabe von Theodor Hampe: Das Trachtenbuch des Weiditz von seinen Reisen nach Spanien (1529) und den Niederlanden (1531/32). 1927 

    Andrea McKenzie Satterfield: The assimilation of the marvelous other: Reading Christoph Weiditz’s Trachtenbuch (1529) as an ethnographic document.

    [mod note]

    unfantasmarecoreeuropa's submission is so huge I have to break it up into a few posts!

    This portion featuring Aztec or Méxica people is actually really interesting because it depicts various forms of gaming or contests. Gaming was a very popular topic for many Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. Examples include The Golf Book, so called because of the miniature depicting a game of golf; and Alfonso El Sabio’s Book of Games (El Libro de los Juegos), dating from the 13th century and also features many illustration of people of color.