Blakely / Westermann: Reflection 2


I think that Allison Blakely would find this image on page 112 particularly important.  Blakley tells us that, prior to the 16th century, Black people were rarely present in Holland.  This left artists to use their imaginations when depicting Black people.  These depictions were almost always positive.

Examples of these follow below:

  1. Zwarte Piet as Sinterklaas’ benevolent assistant (pg. 42).
  2. Moses’ wife: Moses and Zippora (pg. 96).
  3. Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch (pg. 93)
  4. The handsome-detailed caricatures on page 86-87
  5. The black king: The Adoration of Magi (pg. 91) 

By the 16th century, black people were a large part of Holland.  Their roles were as slaves, servants, and crew on sea vessels.  At this time, their portrayal in art turned submissive and negative.

The 1693 portrait of Admiral Gilles Schey by Jan Weenix on page 112 epitomizes this transformation of Black people in Dutch art.  The helpless Black boy is on his knees, hands folded, hopelessly staring at the dismissive Admiral. The growling dog at the Admiral’s feet even appears superior to the young boy.

This 17th century period appears to be the apex of Holland’s negative depiction of Black people in art.  In the 18th century, Black people are portrayed in a much more favorable light.  They are shown with families, smiling with handsome and detailed features, even as regal soldiers- towering over a defeated enemy.



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