People of Color in European Art History


  1. Albert Eckhout
Tupuya Woman Holding a Severed Hand
Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)
oil on canvas
265 × 157 cm
National Museum of Denmark
This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch BrazilAlbert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.
This painting of a Tupuya woman by Eckhout is probably the most famous painting of the series, due to its sensationalized depiction of “New World Savagery”.
It’s fairly obvious that many of these paintings were meant to serve as fantasy and wish-fulfillment for Europeans, and yet were touted as faithful depictions of the inhabitants of Brazil. Although the setting and costume are different, many aspects of this life-size painting are taken from Medieval European Wodewose myths, literature, and artwork.
For example, this tapestry (which also depicts Wodewose or “Wild Men” fighting some Moorish soldiers ensconced in a castle) also has a scene in which Wild Men appear to be bringing tidbits of human flesh to feed their forest bride:

The connection between the Medieval Wodewose and the “New World Savage” in regards to the European artistic and literary imagination is made obvious in the Shakespeare’s character Caliban…According to Shakespearean scholars Vaughan and Mason:

Caliban conforms strikingly to the wild-man tradition, and Shakespeare’s audiences may have recognized him accordingly. That of course does not rule out the possibility that Shakespeare added touches of his own-from the New World, where the wild man’s savage ways were often attributed to Native Americans, or from other literary traditions.

They go on to describe the European Medieval fascination with grotesque, people-eating monsters who supposedly lived in far-away lands, as well as the revival of such literary traditions during the age of colonization.
This depiction has a lot more to do with what Europeans wanted to see than what Albert Eckhout actually saw.
Virginie Spinle goes into the popularity of this motif further:

Indeed, the female cannibal with a severed foot in her basket became a popular motif in the latter half of the seventeenth century. The motif was introduced by the Dutch painter Albert Eckhout, who stayed in what is now Brazilian territory from 1637 to 1644 to document, along with other artists and scholars, the achievements of Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen in Dutch Brazil. 
Eckhout based his figures on members of the Tapuya (actually Tarairiu) tribe who inhabited the coastal hinterland of eastern Brazil. Upon returning to Europe, Eckhout painted from oil sketches (now lost) the large-format pictures, with life-size figures, presented by Johan Maurits in 1654 to King Frederick III of Denmark to decorate the Copenhagen Kunstkammer (fig. 3).
 The paintings might seem to view the indigenous peoples of Brazil objectively. However, the painter exploited stereotypes that had become commonplace in European painting. Since the sixteenth century, the severed limbs of victims had figured as principal attributes of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. 
The woman carrying a severed foot undoubtedly represents a nod to the previously mentioned series of engravings published by De Bry, who had stigmatized the Tupinambá, the tribe whose territory adjoined that of the Tapuya, as cannibals. It was, in fact, the unlikely combination of studied allegory and empirical observation that made Eckhout’s paintings so successful. 

In fact, the De Bry series of engravings was the predecessor of this series, which shows once again that the inhabitants of Brazil were no more than political tools for Europeans engaging in a religious and social war with Brazil as their batleground:

Though he made them more “familiar” with scenes of peaceful communal life and classical European physical forms, it seems he did so in order to turn them into more useful victims, to give Spain’s slaves a human face and consequently stir up sympathy for the more “benevolent” Protestant colonizers. They retain their basic pagan inferiority, their barbaric habit of cannibalism that Europeans, like their representative Staden, must disapprove of.
At their best, when they are obstacles to Spanish colonial interests, de Bry’s Indians have shapely bodies and humble souls. At their worst, when they are obstacles to Protestant colonial interests, they degenerate into the howling, contorted, blade-wielding baby-killers ubiquitous in colonialist propaganda.
For de Bry, the Indians, although “human,” were still ripe for enslavement, just not by the papists who had driven him and his family from Flanders. And the cannibals? They were quaint, just as long as it was a Spaniard on the butcher block.

Too many modern Art Historians still seem to view Eckhout’s series of paintings in a vacuum, but it is clear that a painting like the one above is adhering to an agenda-one of bloody conquest, enslavement, and cultural as well as physical genocide.
This depiction of sexualized violence, debauchery, and the juxtaposition of innocence with vice, ripe for conversion, subversion, and exploitation would have been nigh-irresistible to European viewers. This painting is not about Brazil as it is, or ever was. It is about European desires and very little else.
[x] [x] [x] [x] [x]

    Albert Eckhout

    Tupuya Woman Holding a Severed Hand

    Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)

    oil on canvas

    265 × 157 cm

    National Museum of Denmark

    This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil
    Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

    This painting of a Tupuya woman by Eckhout is probably the most famous painting of the series, due to its sensationalized depiction of “New World Savagery”.

    It’s fairly obvious that many of these paintings were meant to serve as fantasy and wish-fulfillment for Europeans, and yet were touted as faithful depictions of the inhabitants of Brazil. Although the setting and costume are different, many aspects of this life-size painting are taken from Medieval European Wodewose myths, literature, and artwork.

    For example, this tapestry (which also depicts Wodewose or “Wild Men” fighting some Moorish soldiers ensconced in a castle) also has a scene in which Wild Men appear to be bringing tidbits of human flesh to feed their forest bride:

    The connection between the Medieval Wodewose and the “New World Savage” in regards to the European artistic and literary imagination is made obvious in the Shakespeare’s character Caliban…According to Shakespearean scholars Vaughan and Mason:

    Caliban conforms strikingly to the wild-man tradition, and Shakespeare’s audiences may have recognized him accordingly. That of course does not rule out the possibility that Shakespeare added touches of his own-from the New World, where the wild man’s savage ways were often attributed to Native Americans, or from other literary traditions.

    They go on to describe the European Medieval fascination with grotesque, people-eating monsters who supposedly lived in far-away lands, as well as the revival of such literary traditions during the age of colonization.

    This depiction has a lot more to do with what Europeans wanted to see than what Albert Eckhout actually saw.

    Virginie Spinle goes into the popularity of this motif further:

    Indeed, the female cannibal with a severed foot in her basket became a popular motif in the latter half of the seventeenth century. The motif was introduced by the Dutch painter Albert Eckhout, who stayed in what is now Brazilian territory from 1637 to 1644 to document, along with other artists and scholars, the achievements of Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen in Dutch Brazil.

    Eckhout based his figures on members of the Tapuya (actually Tarairiu) tribe who inhabited the coastal hinterland of eastern Brazil. Upon returning to Europe, Eckhout painted from oil sketches (now lost) the large-format pictures, with life-size figures, presented by Johan Maurits in 1654 to King Frederick III of Denmark to decorate the Copenhagen Kunstkammer (fig. 3).

    The paintings might seem to view the indigenous peoples of Brazil objectively. However, the painter exploited stereotypes that had become commonplace in European painting. Since the sixteenth century, the severed limbs of victims had figured as principal attributes of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

    The woman carrying a severed foot undoubtedly represents a nod to the previously mentioned series of engravings published by De Bry, who had stigmatized the Tupinambá, the tribe whose territory adjoined that of the Tapuya, as cannibals. It was, in fact, the unlikely combination of studied allegory and empirical observation that made Eckhout’s paintings so successful.

    In fact, the De Bry series of engravings was the predecessor of this series, which shows once again that the inhabitants of Brazil were no more than political tools for Europeans engaging in a religious and social war with Brazil as their batleground:

    Though he made them more “familiar” with scenes of peaceful communal life and classical European physical forms, it seems he did so in order to turn them into more useful victims, to give Spain’s slaves a human face and consequently stir up sympathy for the more “benevolent” Protestant colonizers. They retain their basic pagan inferiority, their barbaric habit of cannibalism that Europeans, like their representative Staden, must disapprove of.

    At their best, when they are obstacles to Spanish colonial interests, de Bry’s Indians have shapely bodies and humble souls. At their worst, when they are obstacles to Protestant colonial interests, they degenerate into the howling, contorted, blade-wielding baby-killers ubiquitous in colonialist propaganda.

    For de Bry, the Indians, although “human,” were still ripe for enslavement, just not by the papists who had driven him and his family from Flanders. And the cannibals? They were quaint, just as long as it was a Spaniard on the butcher block.

    Too many modern Art Historians still seem to view Eckhout’s series of paintings in a vacuum, but it is clear that a painting like the one above is adhering to an agenda-one of bloody conquest, enslavement, and cultural as well as physical genocide.

    This depiction of sexualized violence, debauchery, and the juxtaposition of innocence with vice, ripe for conversion, subversion, and exploitation would have been nigh-irresistible to European viewers. This painting is not about Brazil as it is, or ever was. It is about European desires and very little else.

    [x] [x] [x] [x] [x]

  2. Albert Eckhout

    Tupi Couple

    Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)

    oil on canvas

    265 × 157 cm

    National Museum of Denmark

    This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil
    Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

    One of Eckhout’s colleagues in Brazil, the natural historian Zacharias Wagener, made sketches of the paintings as part of his own ethnographic notes which, although accurate to a certain extent, nonetheless echo the typical European misreadings of non-European culture. About the Tupi, for instance, he wrote,

    "the women are short and stocky. They have sinewy figures and walk very straight…. They are very faithful to their husbands, whom they accompany to wars carrying their children, dogs, as well as baskets and bags, like mules.”


    [x]

    Many things written by Europeans about the Indigenous inhabitants of Brazil continue to reflect the ignorant legacy of colonization. For example, many of the people in the area who were cast as “less civilized” by the Dutch were called “Tupuya”, which is a Tupi word that means “not Tupi”.

    More on the differences in the way Tupi and Tupuya were depicted by Eckhout and his contemporaries to come.

  3. Albert Eckhout
Afro-Brazilian Warrior
Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)
oil on canvas
265 × 157 cm
National Museum of Denmark
This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch BrazilAlbert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

The…carries weapons of status typical of those owned by the elite of the Akan peoples of Ghana. Carried on his back and in his right hand are several assegais, or metal-tipped spears. Tucked into his waistband is a tasseled ceremonial state sword, the akofena. It is sheathed in a ray-skin scabbard decorated with a highly prized, imported pink oyster shell. This particular kind of sword was often used by emissaries of an Akan king on official diplomatic missions and conveyed the right of the bearer to deal on his behalf. 
The series was intended ostensibly as a record of New World ethnography. As recent investigations have made clear, however, much more is on view than a straightforward presentation of its subjects. This is especially true of the black pair, whose dress and other accoutrements do not conform to the actual appearance of enslaved blacks in the colony. In both images the nonnative origin of the figures is stressed.
The black man and woman stand in two worlds, one the land of their origin and the other an unchosen place of forced servitude. This dual reference was motivated by the rather high-minded “scientific” conception of the series: defining the presence of Africans in Brazil in terms of natural history, tinged with references to commerce, but with no clear acknowledgment of the institution of slavery.
Scholars have suggested the intended placement of the series — as a prominent feature within one of the residences of Johan Maurits, either in Brazil or in his magnificent new home in Amsterdam. The paintings, however, seem never to have been installed in this fashion. After the failure of the Dutch colony in Brazil in 1654, their relevance may have seemed moot. In fact, that very year the series was given to the king of Denmark. Today it is found in the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, displayed in an ethnographic context among actual artifacts from African tribal cultures, some of which had also been part of Maurits’ donation.
[x]

    Albert Eckhout

    Afro-Brazilian Warrior

    Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)

    oil on canvas

    265 × 157 cm

    National Museum of Denmark

    This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil
    Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

    The…carries weapons of status typical of those owned by the elite of the Akan peoples of Ghana. Carried on his back and in his right hand are several assegais, or metal-tipped spears. Tucked into his waistband is a tasseled ceremonial state sword, the akofena. It is sheathed in a ray-skin scabbard decorated with a highly prized, imported pink oyster shell. This particular kind of sword was often used by emissaries of an Akan king on official diplomatic missions and conveyed the right of the bearer to deal on his behalf. 

    The series was intended ostensibly as a record of New World ethnography. As recent investigations have made clear, however, much more is on view than a straightforward presentation of its subjects. This is especially true of the black pair, whose dress and other accoutrements do not conform to the actual appearance of enslaved blacks in the colony. In both images the nonnative origin of the figures is stressed.

    The black man and woman stand in two worlds, one the land of their origin and the other an unchosen place of forced servitude. This dual reference was motivated by the rather high-minded “scientific” conception of the series: defining the presence of Africans in Brazil in terms of natural history, tinged with references to commerce, but with no clear acknowledgment of the institution of slavery.

    Scholars have suggested the intended placement of the series — as a prominent feature within one of the residences of Johan Maurits, either in Brazil or in his magnificent new home in Amsterdam. The paintings, however, seem never to have been installed in this fashion. After the failure of the Dutch colony in Brazil in 1654, their relevance may have seemed moot. In fact, that very year the series was given to the king of Denmark. Today it is found in the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, displayed in an ethnographic context among actual artifacts from African tribal cultures, some of which had also been part of Maurits’ donation.

    [x]

  4. Albert Eckhout
Tapuya Man
Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)
oil on canvas
265 × 157 cm
National Museum of Denmark
This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch BrazilAlbert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.
Here is what a professor teaching a course on colonial art in Brazil would like you to know about this painting:



Eckhout’s paintings also have historical value as well: this series contains the only available representations of the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.



The Tapuya and other Indigenous people of Brazil beg to differ.

In fact, they are currently engaged in a desperate battle against being displaced by the Brazilian Government.

[forgive my terrible translation]


In recent days, a conflict occurring for years in the federal capital is finally making the news, a few pages of the mainstream press and relative attention of Brasilia. In the center of the dispute is the Northwest Sector, an area of environmental protection, with springs and rich flora and fauna. 
On one side is an indigenous community Fulni it Tapuya which states reside at the place for over 40 years and battle for recognition and demarcation of land. Another, contractors and Emplavi Brasal (and all political power that money can buy), interested in uplifting the newest and desirable neighborhood of upper middle class of Brasilia, where a square meter costs around £ 8000.



In 2011, an important Religious shrine of the Tupuya people was torn down in an attempt to displace the Tupuya:


The Action of GDF (Vice Governor Thaddeus Filipelli / PMDB-DF) and TERRACAP (Filipelli and Ivelise Longhi / PMDB-DF) that on August 16, 2011 raided, intimidated and destroyed part of the cerrado vegetation of indigenous land, violated indigenous rights, human rights and the Constitution, was an act of aggression in an attempt to deprive the indigenous community Tapuya the Shrine of the Shamans of its historic territory of traditional use, thus originating a deprivation of the right to land, a violation of the home, a violation of indigenous spiritual values, a violation of the memory and history of the indigenous presence Candanga and pioneer of the Holy Shrine of the Shamans in the Federal District.


These violations are ongoing, and are only increasing as Brazil moves forward with preparations to host the World Cup.
2013: Indigenous people who have been occupying a museum in protest of displacement since 2006 were forcibly evicted by police in March so that it could be torn down for use as a parking lot for the FIFA 2014 World Cup Stadium. The media refers to them as “squatters”.

“…the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

“…the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

“…the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

You can go and view the painting of “The Last Tapuya” at the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Or, you can join in supporting the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil, who are fighting for their lives right now.
Info:
BBC: Indigenous Brazilians Use Web to Fight for Their Rights
Brazil Dismantles Democracy in Assault on Indigenous Rights
Action:
Write to the Brazilian Government
Survival international
Indigenous blogs:
Diario Liberdade
A Verdade Do Sanctuario Dos Pajes
Global Voices Online

    Albert Eckhout

    Tapuya Man

    Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)

    oil on canvas

    265 × 157 cm

    National Museum of Denmark

    This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil
    Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

    Here is what a professor teaching a course on colonial art in Brazil would like you to know about this painting:

    Eckhout’s paintings also have historical value as well: this series contains the only available representations of the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.

    The Tapuya and other Indigenous people of Brazil beg to differ.

    image

    In fact, they are currently engaged in a desperate battle against being displaced by the Brazilian Government.

    image

    [forgive my terrible translation]

    In recent days, a conflict occurring for years in the federal capital is finally making the news, a few pages of the mainstream press and relative attention of Brasilia. In the center of the dispute is the Northwest Sector, an area of environmental protection, with springs and rich flora and fauna.

    On one side is an indigenous community Fulni it Tapuya which states reside at the place for over 40 years and battle for recognition and demarcation of land. Another, contractors and Emplavi Brasal (and all political power that money can buy), interested in uplifting the newest and desirable neighborhood of upper middle class of Brasilia, where a square meter costs around £ 8000.

    image

    In 2011, an important Religious shrine of the Tupuya people was torn down in an attempt to displace the Tupuya:

    The Action of GDF (Vice Governor Thaddeus Filipelli / PMDB-DF) and TERRACAP (Filipelli and Ivelise Longhi / PMDB-DF) that on August 16, 2011 raided, intimidated and destroyed part of the cerrado vegetation of indigenous land, violated indigenous rights, human rights and the Constitution, was an act of aggression in an attempt to deprive the indigenous community Tapuya the Shrine of the Shamans of its historic territory of traditional use, thus originating a deprivation of the right to land, a violation of the home, a violation of indigenous spiritual values, a violation of the memory and history of the indigenous presence Candanga and pioneer of the Holy Shrine of the Shamans in the Federal District.

    These violations are ongoing, and are only increasing as Brazil moves forward with preparations to host the World Cup.

    2013: Indigenous people who have been occupying a museum in protest of displacement since 2006 were forcibly evicted by police in March so that it could be torn down for use as a parking lot for the FIFA 2014 World Cup Stadium. The media refers to them as “squatters”.

    image

    …the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

    image

    …the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

    image

    …the Tapuyas (Tarairius), a group which had died out by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

    image

    You can go and view the painting of “The Last Tapuya” at the National Museum in Copenhagen.

    image

    Or, you can join in supporting the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil, who are fighting for their lives right now.

    Info:

    BBC: Indigenous Brazilians Use Web to Fight for Their Rights

    Brazil Dismantles Democracy in Assault on Indigenous Rights

    Action:

    Write to the Brazilian Government

    Survival international

    Indigenous blogs:

    Diario Liberdade

    A Verdade Do Sanctuario Dos Pajes

    Global Voices Online

  5. Albert Eckhout
A Black Brazilian Woman and Her Son
Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)
oil on canvas
265 × 157 cm
National Museum of Denmark
This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch BrazilAlbert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.
The purpose of this series of paintings was to advertise the benefits of colonization to wealthy, white European men. In contrast to the painting of the “Mameluca” (mixed/Mestiza) Woman, this painting is meant to emphasize strength and fertility…not as admirable qualities of this woman, but as a resource that European men could consume, exploit and control. The dark-skinned laborers in the background, the ships on the ocean, and the son who is lighter-skinned than the mother all serve to promote the promise of property wealthy Dutch men could own if they came to Brazil.
The legacy of kidnapping and enslavement of people from various African nations by the Dutch mars Brazilian society still. "New Holland" was the destination for more than 1,500 poor souls every year between 1636 and 1641. This acceleration of human trafficking by the West India company continued until 1730.
Today, Brazil is a minority-majority nation, but despite a great deal of press depicting racial harmony and joyful diversity, persistent structural inequality persists as a pyramid with White Brazilians at the top:


Nearly all TV news anchors in Brazil are white, as are the vast majority of doctors, dentists, fashion models and lawyers. Most maids and doormen, street cleaners and garbage collectors are black.
A decade of booming economic growth and wealth-redistribution schemes has narrowed the income gap between blacks and whites, but it remains pronounced. In 2011, the average black or mixed-race worker earned just 60 percent what the average white worker made. That was up from 2001, when black workers earned 50.5 percent what white workers made, according to Brazil’s national statistics agency.
Nubia de Lima, a 29-year-old black producer for Globo television network, said she experiences racism on a daily basis, in the reactions and comments of strangers who are constantly taking her for a maid, a nanny or a cook, despite her flair for fashion and pricey wardrobe.
"People aren’t used to seeing black people in positions of power," she said. "It doesn’t exist. They see you are black and naturally assume that you live in a favela (hillside slum) and you work as a housekeeper."
"Here it’s a racism of exclusion," de Lima said.


Many copies of this painting were made and spread throughout Europe, in order to promote the “benefits” of colonization, including a set of tapestries that were sent to Louis XIV in France. These copies included various revisions, including replacing the flower with fruit, and placing a brand on the woman’s breast to indicate her enslavement.
Stereotypes like these affect Black Brazilian women to this day. The coordinator of the Black Consciousness group at the University of São Paulo (USP), Haydee Fiorino, says:



[…] for women, the burden of discrimination is even greater. “Black women are always doing subordinate work. Or they are seen as the wife of the carnival, the lecherous mulatto, who only gains visibility in the carnival and then goes back to her place, sweeping the floor,” she added.





Race in Brazil (English)
Militantes fazem passeata contra o racismo em São Paulo (Portuguese)
Brazil for the Happy Few (English)
Ambivalent Ethnographies (English)
Scholarship by Haydée Fiorino

    Albert Eckhout

    A Black Brazilian Woman and Her Son

    Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)

    oil on canvas

    265 × 157 cm

    National Museum of Denmark

    This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil
    Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

    The purpose of this series of paintings was to advertise the benefits of colonization to wealthy, white European men. In contrast to the painting of the “Mameluca” (mixed/Mestiza) Woman, this painting is meant to emphasize strength and fertility…not as admirable qualities of this woman, but as a resource that European men could consume, exploit and control. The dark-skinned laborers in the background, the ships on the ocean, and the son who is lighter-skinned than the mother all serve to promote the promise of property wealthy Dutch men could own if they came to Brazil.

    The legacy of kidnapping and enslavement of people from various African nations by the Dutch mars Brazilian society still. "New Holland" was the destination for more than 1,500 poor souls every year between 1636 and 1641. This acceleration of human trafficking by the West India company continued until 1730.

    Today, Brazil is a minority-majority nation, but despite a great deal of press depicting racial harmony and joyful diversity, persistent structural inequality persists as a pyramid with White Brazilians at the top:

    Nearly all TV news anchors in Brazil are white, as are the vast majority of doctors, dentists, fashion models and lawyers. Most maids and doormen, street cleaners and garbage collectors are black.

    A decade of booming economic growth and wealth-redistribution schemes has narrowed the income gap between blacks and whites, but it remains pronounced. In 2011, the average black or mixed-race worker earned just 60 percent what the average white worker made. That was up from 2001, when black workers earned 50.5 percent what white workers made, according to Brazil’s national statistics agency.

    Nubia de Lima, a 29-year-old black producer for Globo television network, said she experiences racism on a daily basis, in the reactions and comments of strangers who are constantly taking her for a maid, a nanny or a cook, despite her flair for fashion and pricey wardrobe.

    "People aren’t used to seeing black people in positions of power," she said. "It doesn’t exist. They see you are black and naturally assume that you live in a favela (hillside slum) and you work as a housekeeper."

    "Here it’s a racism of exclusion," de Lima said.

    Many copies of this painting were made and spread throughout Europe, in order to promote the “benefits” of colonization, including a set of tapestries that were sent to Louis XIV in France. These copies included various revisions, including replacing the flower with fruit, and placing a brand on the woman’s breast to indicate her enslavement.

    Stereotypes like these affect Black Brazilian women to this day. The coordinator of the Black Consciousness group at the University of São Paulo (USP), Haydee Fiorino, says:

    […] for women, the burden of discrimination is even greater. “Black women are always doing subordinate work. Or they are seen as the wife of the carnival, the lecherous mulatto, who only gains visibility in the carnival and then goes back to her place, sweeping the floor,” she added.

  6. Albert Eckhout
"Mameluca" Woman as a Concubine
Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)
oil on canvas
265 × 157 cm
National Museum of Denmark
This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil
Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.
This series is among the first European paintings that were brought back to Europe of the “New World”; their purpose being to attract funding and interest in travel to these places, and to encourage the wealthy to invest in colonization. The accuracy of these paintings remains hotly contested in Art History circles. There is a notable lack of accountability regarding asking the Indigenous peoples of Brazil their opinions on this series. Indeed, many of the American and European “scholars” who bother to teach the history of these paintings insist that the ethnic groups depicted here have “died out”.
Too many academic environments treat these paintings as if they exist in some kind of vacuum, separated by a sterile layer of “objectivity” from the lives of Brazilian people today.

Considering what is going on in Brazil RIGHT NOW, and how the racial strife and economic issues can be traced directly back to caste systems and social conventions created by colonization and exploitation, it is disingenuous at best and colluding with oppression and violence at worst to teach Art History in this manner.
Art does not and has never existed outside of context.
This panting of a Brazilian woman who is a mixture of Portuguese and Indigenous Brazilian (“Mameluc@” is translatable to “Mestiz@” in Spanish, “mixed” or Mulatto” in English) may seem demure to a modern viewer, but in context it is meant to titillate and assure a (preferably wealthy) male viewer of her sexual availability and willingness to cater to male desires for sex, food, fertility, land, and conquest:


The Mameluke Woman is depicted as a coquettish concubine in garb that is quite non-European (not only with the loose fitting dress, but because she apparently isn’t wearing a girdle or underclothing). Her raised dress and exposed leg suggest the sexual “profitability” of native people to the conquering Dutch. In fact, these mameluke women (a mixture of Indian and European blood) were stereotypically seen by the Dutch as being promiscuous and sexually available.


There terms do not disappear into a void when we come to modern racial constructs and how they affect the lives of real people in Brazil today.


The coordinator of the Black Consciousness group at the University of São Paulo (USP), Haydee Fiorino, says that for women, the burden of discrimination is even greater. “Black women are always doing subordinate work. Or they are seen as the wife of the carnival, the lecherous mulatto, who only gains visibility in the carnival and then goes back to her place, sweeping the floor,” she added. 


Protests against racism are happening throughout Brazil, and younger and older generations are joining together in order to combat the injustice the impositions of class and caste systems by colonizing forces have left in their wake.


The coordinator of the Movement New Quilombo, Race and Class, Honorius Wilson da Silva, said the event is part of a continued mobilization to combat discrimination in the country “We are here to say that racism is everywhere, but we are also everywhere. We are the majority of the population, ” he said.


During this week, I will be presenting quite a few of Eckhout’s paintings, preferably with as much context as possible, and including the words and deeds of modern Brazilians, who are affected by the legacy of colonization that these paintings are all too often removed from. As an American, my own point of view certainly affects the way I talk about these works. As an Indigenous American, I am all too familiar with how the legacy of colonization leads to shattered cultures and degraded circumstances for those of us who were here before. It is my goal to prioritize the voices of Brazilians of color who have been silenced and erased, or viewed through the lens of the Other by European art and media.
Casta/Caste system in the Americas, with sources (134 terms or castes in Brazil alone) (English)
Núcleo de Estudios Afro-Asiáticos (Portuguese)
Monica Bowen, European Art Historian and Professor (English)
More from Bowen
Two white people argue over whether or not Brazilians are cannibals at NY Times
Afro-Europe, Brazilian Protests (English)

    Albert Eckhout

    "Mameluca" Woman as a Concubine

    Dutch Brazil, Netherlands (1641)

    oil on canvas

    265 × 157 cm

    National Museum of Denmark

    This Week on MedievalPOC: Eckhout’s series on Dutch Brazil

    Albert Eckhout was a Netherlandish still-life painter commissioned by  John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, to paint the plants, animals, and human beings that inhabited the newly colonized Brazil.

    This series is among the first European paintings that were brought back to Europe of the “New World”; their purpose being to attract funding and interest in travel to these places, and to encourage the wealthy to invest in colonization. The accuracy of these paintings remains hotly contested in Art History circles. There is a notable lack of accountability regarding asking the Indigenous peoples of Brazil their opinions on this series. Indeed, many of the American and European “scholars” who bother to teach the history of these paintings insist that the ethnic groups depicted here have “died out”.

    Too many academic environments treat these paintings as if they exist in some kind of vacuum, separated by a sterile layer of “objectivity” from the lives of Brazilian people today.

    image

    Considering what is going on in Brazil RIGHT NOW, and how the racial strife and economic issues can be traced directly back to caste systems and social conventions created by colonization and exploitation, it is disingenuous at best and colluding with oppression and violence at worst to teach Art History in this manner.

    Art does not and has never existed outside of context.

    This panting of a Brazilian woman who is a mixture of Portuguese and Indigenous Brazilian (“Mameluc@” is translatable to “Mestiz@” in Spanish, “mixed” or Mulatto” in English) may seem demure to a modern viewer, but in context it is meant to titillate and assure a (preferably wealthy) male viewer of her sexual availability and willingness to cater to male desires for sex, food, fertility, land, and conquest:

    The Mameluke Woman is depicted as a coquettish concubine in garb that is quite non-European (not only with the loose fitting dress, but because she apparently isn’t wearing a girdle or underclothing). Her raised dress and exposed leg suggest the sexual “profitability” of native people to the conquering Dutch. In fact, these mameluke women (a mixture of Indian and European blood) were stereotypically seen by the Dutch as being promiscuous and sexually available.

    There terms do not disappear into a void when we come to modern racial constructs and how they affect the lives of real people in Brazil today.


    The coordinator of the Black Consciousness group at the University of São Paulo (USP), Haydee Fiorino, says that for women, the burden of discrimination is even greater. “Black women are always doing subordinate work. Or they are seen as the wife of the carnival, the lecherous mulatto, who only gains visibility in the carnival and then goes back to her place, sweeping the floor,” she added.

    Protests against racism are happening throughout Brazil, and younger and older generations are joining together in order to combat the injustice the impositions of class and caste systems by colonizing forces have left in their wake.

    The coordinator of the Movement New Quilombo, Race and Class, Honorius Wilson da Silva, said the event is part of a continued mobilization to combat discrimination in the country “We are here to say that racism is everywhere, but we are also everywhere. We are the majority of the population, ” he said.

    During this week, I will be presenting quite a few of Eckhout’s paintings, preferably with as much context as possible, and including the words and deeds of modern Brazilians, who are affected by the legacy of colonization that these paintings are all too often removed from. As an American, my own point of view certainly affects the way I talk about these works. As an Indigenous American, I am all too familiar with how the legacy of colonization leads to shattered cultures and degraded circumstances for those of us who were here before. It is my goal to prioritize the voices of Brazilians of color who have been silenced and erased, or viewed through the lens of the Other by European art and media.

    Casta/Caste system in the Americas, with sources (134 terms or castes in Brazil alone) (English)

    Núcleo de Estudios Afro-Asiáticos (Portuguese)

    Monica Bowen, European Art Historian and Professor (English)

    More from Bowen

    Two white people argue over whether or not Brazilians are cannibals at NY Times

    Afro-Europe, Brazilian Protests (English)