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Blacks Portrayed by European Artists

By Richard Myers
Posted: 03/03/2024
Tags: art, rhinegold

On the first Friday of March, March 1, Helane Rhinegold presented another in her wonderful series "Conversations with Art." This time her subject was "Black Artists Portrayed by European Artists Through the Decades." This presentation was recorded and is available for viewing on the Pasadena Village YouTube Channel. In her usual approach, Helane displays a particular piece of art to discuss and then converses with the audience about the piece. She encourages the viewers describe what they see in the work and how it affects them, which sometimes produces surprising results. She also provides information about the work itself such as when and in what context it was produced often naming the model and providing historical information about how it was received in its own time. For example: 


St. Maurice  1520   Lucas Cranach the Elder

  •   Paint on wood, represents a Commander of the Roman Legion who was Egyptian.  Over time,

  representations of St. Maurice have tended to represent him as European.

  Metropolitan Museum


Man Wearing a Turban     Date unknown     Karel van Mander lll (1625-1670)

  • Artist was from Delft. Represents a North African man who is shown as confident and proud.



Portrait of Jan Valkenburgh    1660    Daniel Vertangen

  •  Valkenbaugh was the Governor of Dutch Gold Coast, Angola today.  This area of Africa was very  important to the slave trade.  Valkenbaugh is shown as a soldier.



Youth in Embroidered Vest 1785  Marie Lempine

  •   "Bust portrait" of a young Black male wearing fancy clothing.  The artist was a woman who supported

   herself with her artwork.  The subject was a child named Emok who was a house slave in the home

   of Madame DuBarry. 



Othello  1826   William Mulready

  •   Portrait of a Black actor, Ira Aldrige.  He was the first Black Shakespearean actor who was unable to            make a career in the United States and moved to England where he enjoyed success as an actor.



The Captive Slave  1827  John Simpson

  • The model for this portrait was Ira Aldrige.  Xrays of this portrait reveal two under paintings suggesting

   the portrait was painted for the artist not a patron.



Olympia   1886   Eduord Manet

  • Portrait of a courtesan with a Black maid presenting her with flowers. The painting created a

  scandal in Paris and was never purchased during the artist's lifetime.



Bashir Bazouk  1869  Jean Leone Gerome

  •  Portrait of a mercenary soldier from North Africa wearing or holding items plundered during war.



Young Woman with Peonies  1870  Fredric Bazille

  • Model was the same person as Manet used in Olympia. 


Thomas McKeller   Date unknown   John Singer Sargent (1871-1921)

  • Nude male portrait, anatomy study.  Model was a hotel doorman who the artist used as a model for 15     years.



  Helane has done a number of presentations for us over the last year and they are available on our YouTube Channel for your convenience.  We encourage you to browse our channel to enjoy these other presentations.

We are looking forward to the next few months and the upcoming 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer in August. This was a very important period of time in our history as the events and activities in this period are considered to have had a major impact on changes that took place within our society. We will be announcing our schedule of presentations in future posts. 

For our next presentation which will take place on Friday, March 15 at noon, I would like to suggest a discussion about a short film that has been nominated for an Oscar for a short documentary film. The film is available on YouTube and is named "The Barber of Little Rock." It is 34 minutes long so it is not difficult to watch. The film has also been written up in a New Yorker article. This black barber started a barber college on the black side of the freeway in town and has graduated hundreds of barbers into the community. After accomplishing that, he started a CDFI (Commuity Development Financial Institution) using a government program that was created for that purpose and is now making small personal and business loans in his neighborhood. The video illustrates the divide between the white side of the freeway and the black side, and illuminates the difficulties that are faced by the residents directly resulting from institutional factors. The film does a wonderful job raising awareness of the plight of people who work hard to acheive something but are swimming against a constant tide. This film provides a lot of material for discussions about discrimination, institutional structures, and reparations, among other things. We would like to hear what you think after viewing this film.  

As always, our discussions are open to guests and anyone needing information about upcoming events is invited to contact at our office at or at (626) 765 - 6037. 

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