Portrait of Elizabeth Murray
England (c. 1650)
Oil on canvas, 124 x 119 cm
I think I have seen pictures of this before, in high school maybe, but I don’t remember there being a second person before. I seem to remember this image being cropped differently too, which is very disturbing because now that I see the entire painting, the way I remember it being cropped was very clearly and deliberately intended to remove the person holding the tray of flowers.
Since we’re throwing haymakers at the kyriarchy today, I think this is something that we should really be talking about too, because it happens
ALL. THE. TIME.
Level 1: People of Color from Medieval, Renaissance, and other Early Modern European works were often literally painted over in later decades or centuries.
Level 2: It was very fashionable in a lot of 17th and 18th century paintings to have a Black servant featured in portraits of very important historical figures from European History.
Honestly? They’re practically ubiquitous. A lot of the very famous paintings you’ve seen of European and American historical figures have a Black servant in them that have been cropped out or painted over.
Those silly stock photos from your American History Professor’s Powerpoint?
Your Professor’s PowerPoint for “George Washington”:
The actual painting:
Your professor’s Powerpoint on Jean Chardin:
The actual painting:
PowerPoint on Maria Henriette Stuart (with some commentary about the Habsburg jaw):
But, because of whitewashed history curricula, teachers and professors continue to use the cropped images because they don’t want their lecture to get “derailed” by a discussion about race.
These images are also more commonly seen on stock photo sites, including ones for academic use.
I honestly can’t find anyone really writing about this, or even any analysis on how often the cropped photos are used.
The reason they are so easy to crop out is because of the the artistic conventions which reflect the power hierarchy:
Oil paintings of aristocratic families from this period make the point clearly. Artists routinely positioned black people on the edges or at the rear of their canvasses, from where they gaze wonderingly at their masters and mistresses. In order to reveal a ‘hierarchy of power relationships’, they were often placed next to dogs and other domestic animals, with whom they shared, according to the art critic and novelist David Dabydeen, ‘more or less the same status’. Their humanity effaced, they exist in these pictures as solitary mutes, aesthetic foils to their owners’ economic fortunes.
This is drastically oversimplified, but at least it addresses it directly.
If anyone knows more on any studies or statistical evidence on this tendency, feel free to add it.
Stunning medieval murals survive under twenty paint layers
The BBC reported today about an amazing find in a local church in Llancarfan, Wales. A thin red line was discovered some time ago and upon further investigation expert discovered numerous 15th-century wall paintings behind the 20 layers of lime wash that were added over the past five centuries. They have been restored over the past months and can now be enjoyed by everybody. It’s fascinating how these medieval paintings lay dormant - were able to survive, really - behind layers and layers of paint.
Dante: Divina Commedia
Manuscript (It. IX. 276), 430 x 280 mm (folio size)
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice
Click on the image to see the detail in a zoomable context.
Detail from *The Immaculate Conception *, Joan de Joanes, 1535 - 1540
The Unicorn in Captivity, on display at the Cloisters (1495-1505)
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a gorgeous edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Stunning isn’t it! Look at the close-up and see if you can read it. This image shows the opening of the Cook’s tale.
Image source: British Library MS Harley 7334. Image declared as public domain on the British Library website.
This miniature is part of one of the most elaborate narrative Christ cycles from the 12th century. Full page also features Christ and a bull-like demon.
Illustrated Vita Christi, with devotional supplements (detail), about 1190-1200 and about 1480-1490, Unknown. J. Paul Getty Museum.