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People of Color in European Art History

@medievalpoc / medievalpoc.tumblr.com

Because you wouldn't want to be historically inaccurate.

Anonymous (Braunschweig)

Carved Predalla with Saint Maurice

Germany (c. 1519)

Polychrome and Gilded Wood (Saint Maurice), 64 x 40 cm.

WIENHAUSEN., Klosterkirche. Damenchor.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Mmmmmm…..Braunschweig.

Andrea Brustolon

Black Warrior

Italy (c. 1715)

Carved Ebony, 270 cm.

Venezia, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca'Rezzonico. Salone da Ballo.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Juan de Balmaseda

Carved Predella: Adoration of the Magi

Spain (c. 1516-1525)

Polychrome Wood, 68 x 83 cm.

Palencia, Seo. Capilla de San Ildefonso.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Anonymous German Artist

Altarpiece with the Virgin Mary and Saint Maurice

Germany (c. 1490)

Polychrome and Gilded Wood, 60 cm. (Saint Maurice)

Delligsen, Evangelische Kirche St. Georg.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Anonymous German Illuminator

Drawing of a Reliquary for the Abbey of Halle-Saint Maurice

Germany (1525)

Illumination on Parchment (full page), 350 x 250 mm.

Aschaffenburg, Hofbibliothek.

Liber Ostensionis Hallesche Heiltumsbuch ) (428ff.). Folio 174 sup v . Full page: Drawing of a reliquary for the Abbey of Halle, decorated with sundry statuettes, including one of Saint Maurice.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Anonymous (Lower Saxony)

Saint Maurice (between Saints Anthony and James the Greater)

Germany (c. 1480)

Polychrome and Gilded Wood (right wing), 125 x 65 cm.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Grandes Chroniques de France [Royal MS G VI]

f. 168v, Charlemagne besieging Agolant in Agen (Charlemagne, book 4, 4) and f. 167r, f. 167r. Agolant and his Moors attack a castle (Charlemagne, book 4, 3).

France (1332-1350)

Parchment codex; 390 x 280 mm (text space: 255 x 190 mm).

British Library, London.

The Adoration of the Magi

Netherlands (c. 1560s)

photos via supernaut.info

Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s paintings are famous for their depictions of 16th century peasant life in the Low Countries. He was nicknamed “Peasant Brueghel” for his habit of dressing down to crash weddings and other celebrations in the countryside to glean information and inspiration for his artworks.

Scene:    I’m reading some fat fantasy book set in Yet Another Faux Medieval Europe. Nothing in this story jibes with my understanding of actual medieval Europe. There’s no fantasy version of the Silk Road bringing spices and agricultural techniques and ideas from China and India and Persia. There’s been no Moorish conquest. There aren’t even Jewish merchants or bankers, stereotypical as that would be. Everyone in this “Europe” looks the same but for minor variations of hair or eye color. They speak the same language, worship the same gods — and everyone, even the very poor people, seems inordinately concerned with the affairs of the nobility, as if there’s nothing else going on that matters. There are dragons and magic in the story, but it’s the human fantasy that I’m having trouble swallowing.    It doesn’t matter which book I’m reading. I could name you a dozen others just like it. This isn’t magical medieval Europe; it’s some white supremacist, neo-feudalist fantasy of same, and I’m so fucking sick of it that I put the book down and open my laptop and start writing. Later people read what I’ve written and remark on how angry the story is. Gosh, I wonder why.

N. K. Jemisin, “How Long ’til Black Future Month?”  (September 30th, 2013)

This essay definitely stands the test of three years, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing. It’s spectacular.

Anonymous German Artist

Fragment of a Retable: Saint Maurice

Germany (1517)

Oil on Wood, 77 x 43.5 cm.

Alterode, Kirche.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

Nikolaus Glockendon I

Underbar F With Saint Maurice

Germany (1524)

Illumination on Parchment, 385 x 280 mm.

Illumination. Missal of Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg (572 ff.). Folio 381 sup v :/ Decorated initial underbar F with Saint Maurice.

lluminator active in Nuremburg. Pupil of Albrecht Dürer. His major works, among them the Missal of Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg, are often based on works by Dürer, Martin Schongauer and Lucas Cranach.

Image of the Black in Western Art (Harvard University)

Aurora Consurgens (att: St. Thomas Aquinas or “Pseudo-Aquinas”)

f. 34v: Black Female Angel

Germany (c. 1420s)

Parchment Codex with Watercolor Miniatures, 20.4 x 13.9 cm.

Zürich, Zentralbibliothek.

This is one of those manuscript miniatures that is so beautiful and strange, it’s hard to believe it’s really as old as it is. Aurora Consurgens is an alchemical treatise; a commentary on the Latin translation of Silvery Waters by Muhammed ibn Umail at-Tamîmî (Senior Zadith), attributed first to Saint Thomas Aquinas and later attributed to “Pseudo-Aquinas”.

The miniatures are unusual not only for their quality, but also for the fact that they’re tiny watercolor paintings on the parchment codex. The whole text has been digitized here, and you can read like you were holding it:

*ETA*

The link has a photo with flash in which you can see the gilded portions a bit better, as well as the ability to zoom in to see the details. For those who were curious, inside the Angel’s body is a sheathed dagger and a coiled serpent:

One of the best parts of doing this work over the course of years is that I keep find bigger, better, and higher resolution photographs of my all-time favorite works. This woman from Zanzibar (ostensibly) holding a pangolin has captured my imagination ever since I first laid eyes on a photo of a reproduction-of-a-reproduction; five days ago Sotheby’s posted this big, clear image. Check out the full painting + details here; they’ve also transcribed the inscription on the back of it. <3