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I’ve seen a few fashion posts trying to expand the “Marie Antoinette is not Victorian” rant, but this stuff can get complicated, so here is a semi-comprehensive list so everyone knows exactly when all of these eras were.
Please note that this is very basic and that there are sometimes subcategories (especially in the 17th century, Jacobean, Restoration, etc)
And people wonder WHY I complain about History/Art History periodization. Note how much overlap there is to the above “eras”, and how many exceptions and extensions there are to these categories.
Oh, and by the way…
Because you wouldn’t want to be historically inaccurate.
This is what I think of this.
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.
I just learned things.
i think about this a lot
My art history teacher told us about this black crusader who was considered a hero in Europe. He showed us some portraits of him, but after time Europeans began to portray him as a white man in artwork. He also showed us medieval paintings of free black men. He said people think there are no medieval paintings of black people, but there are and they just aren’t shown to or seen by many people.
I’m glad to hear that your teacher has been trying to incorporate this kind of material into the curriculum. That’s why I try to include as many educational links and resources as I can along with the images-even professional educators can have a hard time finding these artworks and info about them.
It’s also worth mentioning that part of why I focus on Europe-which is a subject of some valid criticism, considering how little time is usually spent on non-Western cultures in history related classes-is because what MUST be included in U.S. world history education by high schools and colleges is according to strict guidelines that are Eurocentric and/or Western-centric.
Educators are often working under pretty strict conditions about what they HAVE to teach you. It’s my hope that by providing a lot of specific examples from eras and artists, professors and high school teachers will be able to make their powerpoints and handouts more representative of the people in the classroom and still stay within the dictates of their department or institution.
Ideally, world history and art history will become less Western and Euro-centric, but in the meantime while our history education remains the way it is, these materials can help show that history is more diverse than a lot of textbooks would lead you to believe.
Grace Lee Boggs ~ QUYEN TRAN
Every once in a while, someone comes along who challenges your assumptions and forces you to rethink everything you thought you knew about history, culture and identity.
Take for instance, Grace Lee Boggs. Before Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X emerged as leaders in the civil rights movement, Boggs—a 99-year-old Detroit resident born to Chinese immigrant parents—was agitating on the frontlines of movements that presaged the events of the 1960s. She became an outspoken activist in the black power movement and was so connected to the struggle that the FBI mistakenly thought she was Afro-Chinese.
A new documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, examines how a Chinese American woman, raised in a middle-class family in New York City, evolved from a Marxist radical to become one of the leading activists in Detroit’s African-American community.It airs at 10 Monday night on PBS.
Read more here and check your local PBS station for the schedule.