People of Color in European Art History

  1. ***UPDATED INFO***

    The amazing voluptee, who lives near Menton, France, visited the Basilica Saint Michael, where this painting is housed, and interviewed the historian there!

    They write:

    I went to the local historian and this is what he said to me: there are several explanations behind the Black Madonna of St Michel

    One thing is for sure : the artist is Puy l’évèque, from Gascony (South France) in 1396


    1 : The artist was a member of one of these two monastic communities: Order of St Benedict (Ordo Sancti Benedicti), or the Order of Cistercians (Ordo Cisterciensis). They used to enforce strict rules on religious statues and paintings. It is known that between the XIth and the XVth century, these two monastic communities ordered their artists to paint Black Madonnas, because in the book Canticle of Canticles, it is said Nigra sum, sed Formosa” :” I am black, but I am Beautiful”. The orders would explain that the Virgin’s color wouldn’t matter. But don’t forget that this phenomenon took place between the XIth and the XVth century!

    2: Black Madonna would be a mix between ancient pagan beliefs and Christianity : all the 500 black Madonnas identified in South Europe are located in ancient pagan places of cult, and the black Madonna would be a continuation of the goddess of earth, whose skin color was black, just like best soil for agriculture.

    3: Others say that the Black Madonna is also a mix between Isis, and ancient Egypt goddess, and the other usual white Madonna. Christianity arrived very late in the territory where St Michel is located. They say that here, the temples were used to lionize Isis, and she would be transformed into the current Virgin. There’s a sentence in another church near this one: “Isidi, seu Virgini ex qua filius proditurus est” It says “Isis, or the Virgin, will give birth” Something like that (my Latin is also pretty bad)

    4: The denial: there’s a controversy, unfortunately there’s always a controversy when it comes to skin color L, some say that the pigments used for the paintings became black with time, because they are made with lead that oxidized.

    Also, that the artist had soot on his hands, but if that would be the case, there wouldn’t have black color on the Madonna’s and baby’s skin only…

    That’s all I have! Hope it will help you in your research! I greatly admire your blog, I am half African half European and I feel like there’s a lack of presence of black people In History.

    I’m amazed! Thank you so much for your help, and I’m sure thousands of people will appreciate this!