People of Color in European Art History

  1. tengokujin wrote...

    Hi! I've been looking at a Kickstarter for a "realistic" medieval-era game called "Kingdom Come: Deliverance" and realized it looked rather... white. I asked the devs if they plan on adding any NPCs of other-than-white-descent and received a polite reply of "[In Central Bohemia, there] were, unfortunately, almost none." A casual search turns up the Mongols, so I figured there's gotta be more. Do you have any sources or books that would indicate significant presence of other ethnicities?

    I took a look at the kickstarter page, and I can tell that representation really isn’t a priority there. For example, their £600,000 goal of adding miniquests in which a female player character is even possible came after “Live Medieval In-Game Music” and “Symphonic Orchestra Soundtrack”, and remains unfulfilled as of yet:


    However, being able to “seduce local women” is already a part of the base game.

    It’s interesting how the game creators are actually pushing the whole “as historically accurate as possible” line of reasoning:

    We want to make the experience as authentic as possible – real-world locations, real castles that don’t look like something from Disneyland, period-accurate armors and costumes, combat and fencing systems designed in collaboration with the most knowledgeable, skillful swordsmen around, and a story based on actual, historic events.

    But apparently, women and people of color just aren’t realistic enough I suppose.

    Ironically, my blog’s main picture (The Queen of Sheba, a Black woman) is actually a Bohemian Illustration from the 15th century (c. 1405), exactly when and where their story is set:


    Bohemia was located in Central Europe, around where the Czech Republic is currently. I have a fair amount of works tagged or containing Bohemia/Czech Republic, including this illumination of the Martyrdom of Saint Maurice:

    imageAnd Master Theodoric was a Bohemian artist, painter of many religious images including this one of Saint Jerome:


    He also did a pretty great Saint Maurice:


    And then of course there’s John of Oppava’s work, a master of the Prague School of Illumination in the late 14th century:


    Prague was the center of quite a few Medieval European seminal works, including the first frescoes depicting the specifically Black King in Adoration of the Magi.

    As for events and history involving Mongolian folks, well. The Battle of Legnica is obviously a thing that happened, Central Europe including Bohemia and what is now the Czech Republic were affected by the invasion. The descendents on the Mongols in this area became known as the Crimean Tatars and more or less stayed put (this would be c. the 15th Century), and had mostly converted to Islam by that point.

    For a more detailed explanation of the ethnic makeup of Bohemia during/immediately preceding this era and the influx of settlers (called “proto-colonization by some historians, but it’s really kind of not), check out Central Europe in the High Middle Ages: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c. 900-c. 1300 by Nora Berend, Przemysław Urbańczyk, Przemysław Wiszewski, Chapter 5: Society and Economy (p. 250), and Chapter 7: New developments of the 13th Century (The Mongol Invasion; p. 244).

    There’s also East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500 by Jean W Sedlar, Chapter 13: Ethnicity and Nationalism (p. 401) to read more about the integration of the Turkic-speaking Cumans into the overall identity of the region. Keep in mind, however, that many of these distinctions do not reflect “race” as we think of it or have it now, but denote religious and/or ethnic affiliations. Which is not the same as race. It does however, show just how diverse and well-traveled the general population was at that time, and how much immigration to the area there was: from Italy, Greece, Germany, Turkey, and Central/South Asia.

    TL;DR: yeah they’re wrong.


    Since this has turned into a circus and people are coming from other sites, here are my final words on the matter.