Revision and Reckoning: The Legacy of Slavery in Histories of Northern Art

JHNA Perspectives 1
Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza. Madrid,

This essay examines Northern visual culture within and outside art history, particularly in relation to the work of radical Black feminists, Critical Race Theorists, and contemporary artists working in the African diaspora. Instead of providing an overview of writing about race and enslavement within art history, we primarily—and selectively—examine scholarship and artistic interventions beyond art history to consider the need for new methods with which to address the ongoing legacy of race and colonialism in early modern art, the academy, and the museum.

DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2022.14.1.1
Fabiola Jean-Louis, They'll Say We Enjoyed It, 2020, archival pigment print, Courtesy of the Artist
Fig. 1 Fabiola Jean-Louis, They’ll Say We Enjoyed It, in Rewriting History, archival pigment print, 2020, https://www.fabiolajeanlouis.com/rewriting-history-color-prints. Image courtesy Fabiola Jean-Louis, https://www.fabiolajeanlouis.com/ [side-by-side viewer]
Jacob Laurence, Builders #1, 1972, watercolor, gouache, and graphite,St. Louis Museum of Art
Fig. 2 Jacob Lawrence, Builders #1, 1972, watercolor, gouache, and graphite, 22 7/16 x 30 3/4 in. (57 x 78.1 cm), St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis,  Eliza McMillan Trust,  93:1972, © 2020 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [side-by-side viewer]
Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza. Madrid,
Fig. 3 Romare Bearden, Sunday After Sermon, 1969, collage on cardboard, 101.6 x 127 cm,  Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Inv. no. 462, (1978.8). COPYRIGHT © As per the specifications of the heirs of the Copyright owner or the managing society. Provenance: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. [side-by-side viewer]
  1. 1. Eveline Sint Niclaas, Slavery (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2021), 304.

  2. 2. Enrique Salvador Rivera, “Whitewashing the Dutch Atlantic,” Social and Economic Studies 64, no. 1 (March 2015): 117–32.

  3. 3. Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 26 (June 2008): 1–14.

  4. 4. Alex van Stipriaan, ed., Op zoek naar de stilte: Sporen van het slavernijheden (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

  5. 5. Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007), 78.

  6. 6. Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 11.

  7. 7. “A Statement of Solidarity and Commitment from HNA,” Historians of Netherlandish art website, June 17, 2020, https://hnanews.org/a-statement-of-solidarity-and-commitment-from-hna.

  8. 8. Massing, Jean Michel, “Albert Eckhout, Frans Post and the Imagery of Afro-Americans in Seventeenth-Century Brazil.” In Studies in Imagery, II: The World Discovered (London: Pindar Press, 2007), 171. Originally published in Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries, ed. Jay A. Levenson ed. (Washington, DC, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in partnership with National Museum of African Art, 2007), 104–15 and 278–80.

  9. 9. Rizvana Bradley, “Picturing Catastrophe: The Visual Politics of Racial Reckoning,” The Yale Review, May 25, 2021, https://yalereview.org/article/picturing-catastrophe.

  10. 10. Caspar Barlaeus, Rerum per octennium in Brasilia et alibi nuper gestarum sub praefectura J. Mauritii, Nassoviae, 185. On Barlaeus’s view of slavery, see Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger, “Von Sklavenhandel und chrisüichen Vorbehalten: Die Aktualität von Caspar Barlaeus in Amerika und Afrika,” Sein Feld war die Welt: Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen (1604–1679), ed. Gerhard Brunn and Cornelius Neutsch. (Münster: Waxmann, 2008), 1.

  11. 11. Markus Vink, “’The World’s Oldest Trade’: Dutch Slavery and Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of World History 14, no. 2 (June 2003): 131–77. 

  12. 12. Reggie Baay, Daar werd iets gruwelijks verricht: Slavernij in Nederlands Indië (Amsterdam: Athenaeum, 2015); Matthias van Rossum, Kleurrijke Tragiek: De geschiedenis van slavernij in Azië onder de VOC (Hilversum: Verloren, 2015).

  13. 13. See Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).

  14. 14. Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1 (1989), https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1052&context=uclf. More recently, see Sumi Cho, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and Leslie McCall, “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis,” Signs 38, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 785–810.

  15. 15. Mariët Westermann, “After Iconography and Iconoclasm: Current Research in Netherlandish Art, 1566–1700,” The Art Bulletin 84, no. 2 (June 2002): 351–72.

  16. 16. Westermann, “After Iconography,” 362.

  17. 17. For an overview of these debates, see Karwan Fatah-Black and Matthias Rossum, “Beyond Profitability: The Dutch Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Economic Impact on Slavery & Abolition,” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 36, no. 1 (2015): 63–83; David Eltis, Pieter C. Emmer, and Frank D. Lewis, “More than Profits? The Contribution of the Slave Trade to the Dutch Economy: Assessing Fatah-Black and Van Rossum,” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 37, no. 4 (2016): 724–35; Karwan Fatah-Black and Matthias Rossum, “A Profitable Debate?” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 37, no. 4 (2016): 736–43. Kwame Nimako and Glenn Willemsen argue that the Peace of Westphalia was inseparable from the transatlantic slave trade and the establishment of a new European economic order founded on collaboration and competition, and dependent on enslaved labor, in The Dutch Atlantic: Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation (New York and London: Pluto Press, 2011).

  18. 18. This, in contrast to exhibitions such as the Nieuwe Kerk’s Black is Beautiful (2008), which sought to counter what the curators perceived as “negative” imagery of people of African descent with a preponderance of supposedly “beautiful” representations of Blacks by predominantly white artists (i.e., “Rubens to Dumas”). The premise of this exhibition, as David Bindman pointed out, was problematic; see David Bindman, “Amsterdam: Black is Beautiful,” The Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1267 (October 2008): 709.

  19. 19. Elmer Kolfin and Epco Runia, eds., Zwart in Rembrandts tijd (Zwolle: WBOOKS and Museum Het Rembrandthuis, 2020). Also available in English translation. See also Esther Chadwick, “A Platter of Turnips,” London Review of Books 43, no. 1 (January 2021), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n01/esther-chadwick/a-platter-of-turnips.

  20. 20. Compare this to what Bindman and Gates characterize as the belief of Dominique de Menil (the French heiress who conceived the unprecedented scholarly project in part as a rejoinder to persistent segregation in her adopted city of Houston) that “relations between Europeans and Africans had not always been under the dark shadow of slavery” (emphasis ours), and that “even during slavery’s three-hundred year reign, artists of superior insight were able to depict the humanity of Africans with warmth and empathy.” David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 5, The Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 1.

  21. 21. Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument,” CR: The New Centennial Review (Fall 2003): 268. Earlier in the article (260), Wynter defines “overrepresentation” as “Man” representing itself “as if it were the human itself,” a dynamic not dissimilar to certain interpretive approaches to images of “blacks” and their/our visual representation from an unacknowledged/unrecognized location within structures and institutions that define humanity/the humanities while/through upholding white supremacy.

  22. 22. Katherine McKittrick, ed., Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 11.

  23. 23. David Scott, “The Re-Enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter,” Small Axe 8 (September 2000): 195. See Sylvia Wynter, “1492: A New World View,” in Race, Discourse, and the Origin of the Americas, ed. Vera Lawrence Hyatt and Rex Nettleford (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995), 5–57.

  24. 24. Eveline Sint Niclaas et al., Slavernij: her verhaal van João, Wally, Oopjen, Paulus, Van Bengalen, Surapati, Sapali, Tula, Dirk, Lohkay (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2021); English translation Sint Niclaas, Slavery (op. cit). This exhibition also builds on an important series produced by the Rijksmuseum engaging with Dutch colonial histories; see in particular Gijs van der Ham, Dof Goud: Ghana en Nederland sinds 1593 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2009); Eveline Sint Niclaas, Ketens en banden: Suriname en Nederland sinds 1600 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2018); Harm Stevens, Gepeperd Verleden: Indonesië en Nederland sinds 1600 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2015); Martine Gosselink, Maria Holtrop, and Robert Ross, Goede Hoop: Zuid-Afrika en Nederland sinds 1600 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2017). All of these are available in English translations, and, tellingly, none of the volumes have been reviewed by HNA Reviews.

  25. 25. Carolina Monteiro and Erik Odegard, “Slavery at the Court of the ‘Humanist Prince’: Reexamining Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen and His Role in Slavery, Slave Trade, and Slave-Smuggling in Brazil,” Journal of Early American History 10, no. 1 (2020): 3–32.

  26. 26. “Research Project: BRASILIAE. Indigenous Knowledge in the Making of Science: Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648),” University of Leiden website, https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/research/research-projects/archaeology/brasiliae.-indigenous-knowledge-in-the-making-of-science-historia-naturalis-brasiliae-1648, accessed June 16, 2021.

  27. 27. Deborah Silverman, “Part I: Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness: African Lineages of Belgian Modernism,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 18, no. 2 (Fall–Winter 2011): 142, 144.

  28. 28. Jenny Folsom, “Antwerp’s Appetite for African Hands,” Contexts 15, no. 4 (Fall 2016): 65.

  29. 29. Damian Skinner, “Settler-Colonial Art History: A Proposition in Two Parts / Histoire de l’art colonialo-allochtone: proposition en deux volets,” Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d’histoire de l’art Canadien 35 (2014): 163–64.

  30. 30. Allison Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), xi.

  31. 31. Susan Buck-Morss, “Hegel and Haiti,” Critical Inquiry 26, no. 4 (Summer 2000), 825. See also Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).

  32. 32. Simon Gikandi, “Overture: Sensibility in the Age of Slavery,” Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 1–3.

  33. 33. The most recent study to consider images of Black people by Dürer, Rubens, etc. in these terms is by a sociologist who retraces much well-traveled art historical ground, importantly situating canonical imagery vis-à-vis weight/fat phobia and race. See Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia (New York: New York University Press, 2019), 15–43, 43–53.

  34. 34. Patricia J. Saunders, “Fugitive Dreams of Diaspora: Conversations with Saidiya Hartman,” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 6, no. 1 (June 2008), 2, http://doi.org/10.33596/anth.115.

  35. 35. The series was acquired in 2021 by Yale’s Beinecke Library. See: https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/article/new-acquisition-rewriting-history-fabiola-jean-louis.

  36. 36. See, in this issue of JHNA: Bernhard Ridderbos, “Choices and Intentions in the Mérode Altarpiece,” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 14, no. 1 (Winter 2022), https://doi.org/10.5092/jhna.2022.14.1.2.

  37. 37. To our knowledge, the only contemporaneous critic to make this connection was C. E. B., “A Watercolor by Jacob Lawrence and a Pastel by Wayne Thiebaud,” St. Louis Art Museum Bulletin 8, no. 4 (1972): 54.

  38. 38. Romare Bearden, “Rectangular Structure in My Montage Paintings,” Leonardo 2, no. 1 (January 1969): 12.

  39. 39. Grace Glueck, “A Brueghel from Harlem,” New York Times, February 22, 1970, 29. Quoted in Lee Stephens Glazer, “Signifying Identity: Art and Race in Romare Bearden’s Projections,” The Art Bulletin 76, no. 3 (September 1994): 419.

Alpers, Svetlana. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Anderson, Carrie. “Contiguous Cloth: Textiles and the Slave Trade in New Netherland.” Gotham Center for New York City History (blog). New York University, June 10, 2021, https://www.gothamcenter.org/blog/contiguous-cloth-textiles-and-the-slave-trade-in-new-netherland.

Baay, Reggie. Daar werd iets gruwelijks verricht: Slavernij in Nederlands Indië. Amsterdam: Athenaeum, 2015.

Barthes, Roland. “The World as Object.” In Critical Essays, translated by Richard Howard, 3–10. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972.

Bearden, Romare. “Rectangular Structure in My Montage Paintings.” Leonardo 2, no. 1 (January 1969): 11–19.

Bindman, David. “Amsterdam: Black is Beautiful.” The Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1267 (October 2008): 708–10.

Bindman, David, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., eds. The Image of the Black in Western Art. Vol. 5, The Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Blakely, Allison. Blacks in the Dutch World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Bradley, Rizvana. “Picturing Catastrophe: The Visual Politics of Racial Reckoning.” The Yale Review, May 25, 2021, https://yalereview.org/article/picturing-catastrophe.

Buck-Morss, Susan. “Hegel and Haiti.” Critical Inquiry 26, no. 4 (Summer 2000): 821–65.

Caygill, Howard. “Barthes and the Lesson of Saenredam.” Diacritics 32, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 38–39, 41, 48.

Chadwick, Esther. “A Platter of Turnips.” London Review of Books 43, no. 1 (January 2021), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n01/esther-chadwick/a-platter-of-turnips.

Cho, Sumi, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, and Leslie McCall, “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis.” Signs 38, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 785–810.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1 (1989), https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1052&context=uclf

Eltis, David, Pieter C. Emmer, and Frank D. Lewis. “More than Profits? The Contribution of the Slave Trade to the Dutch Economy: Assessing Fatah-Black and Van Rossum.” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 37, no. 4 (2016): 724–35.

Fatah-Black, Karwan, and Matthias Rossum. “Beyond Profitability: The Dutch Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Economic Impact on Slavery & Abolition.” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 36, no. 1 (2015): 63–83.

———. “A Profitable Debate?” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 37, no. 4 (2016): 736–43.

Folsom, Jenny. “Antwerp’s Appetite for African Hands.” Contexts 15, no. 4 (Fall 2016): 65.

Gikandi, Simon. Slavery and the Culture of Taste. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Glazer, Lee Stephens. “Signifying Identity: Art and Race in Romare Bearden’s Projections.” The Art Bulletin 76, no. 3 (September 1994): 411–26.

Hartman, Saidiya. Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007.

———. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe 26 (June 2008): 1–14.

Knight, Sam. “Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History.” The New Yorker, August 16, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/23/britains-idyllic-country-houses-reveal-a-darker-history.

Kolfin, Elmer, and Epco Runia, eds. Zwart in Rembrandts tijd. Zwolle: WBOOKS  and Museum Het Rembrandthuis, 2020.

Kossmann, E. H., and Albert Frederik Mellink. Texts Concerning the Revolt of the Netherlands. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

Massing, Jean Michel. “Albert Eckhout, Frans Post and the Imagery of Afro-Americans in Seventeenth-Century Brazil.” In Studies in Imagery, II: The World Discovered (London: Pindar Press, 2007), 141–71. Originally published in Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries, ed. Jay A. Levenson ed. (Washington, DC, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in partnership with National Museum of African Art, 2007), 104–15 and 278–80.

McKittrick, Katherine, ed. Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

Monteiro, Carolina, and Erik Odegard. “Slavery at the Court of the ‘Humanist Prince’: Reexamining Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen and His Role in Slavery, Slave Trade, and Slave-Smuggling in Brazil.” Journal of Early American History 10, no. 1 (2020): 3–32.

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

Nimako, Kwame, and Glenn Willemsen. The Dutch Atlantic: Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation. New York and London: Pluto Press, 2011.

Phaf-Rheinberger, Ineke. “Von Sklavenhandel und chrisüichen Vorbehalten: Die Aktualität von Caspar Barlaeus in Amerika und Afrika.” In Sein Feld war die Welt: Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen (1604–1679), edited by Gerhard Brunn and Cornelius Neutsch, 145–58. Münster: Waxmann, 2008.

Powell, Richard J. “Sartor Africanus.” In Dandies: Fashion and Finesse in Art and Culture, edited by Susan Fillin-Yeh, 217. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Rossum, Matthias van. Kleurrijke Tragiek: De geschiedenis van slavernij in Azië onder de VOC. Hilversum: Verloren, 2015.

Saunders, Patricia J. “Fugitive Dreams of Diaspora: Conversations with Saidiya Hartman.” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 6, no. 1 (June 2008), http://doi.org/10.33596/anth.115.

Scott, David. “The Re-Enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter.” Small Axe 8 (September 2000): 119–207.

Silverman, Deborah. “Part I: Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness: African Lineages of Belgian Modernism.” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 18, no. 2 (Fall–Winter 2011): 139–81.

Sint Niclaas, Eveline. Slavery (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2021).

Sint Niclaas, Eveline, Valika Smeulders, Maria Holtrop, Stephanie Archangel, Lisa Lambrechts, Karwan Fatah-Black, and Martine Gosselink. Slavernij: Her verhaal van João, Wally, Oopjen, Paulus, Van Bengalen, Surapati, Sapali, Tula, Dirk, Lohkay, edited by Geri Klazema and Barbera van Kooij (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2021).

Skinner, Damian. “Settler-Colonial Art History: A Proposition in Two Parts / Histoire de l’art colonialo-allochtone: Proposition en deux volets.” Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d’histoire de l’art Canadien, 35, no. 1 (2014): 163–64.

Stipriaan, Alex van, ed. Op zoek naar de stilte: Sporen van het slavernijheden (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

Strings, Sabrina. Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia. New York: New York University Press, 2019.

Vink, Markus. “‘The World’s Oldest Trade’: Dutch Slavery and Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean in the Seventeenth Century.” Journal of World History 14, no. 2 (June 2003): 131–77.

Westermann, Mariët. “After Iconography and Iconoclasm: Current Research in Netherlandish Art, 1566–1700.” The Art Bulletin 84, no. 2 (June 2002): 351–72.

Rivera, Enrique Salvador. “Whitewashing the Dutch Atlantic.” Social and Economic Studies 64, no. 1 (March 2015): 117–32.

Weststeijn, Arthur. Commercial Republicanism in the Dutch Golden Age: The Political Thought of Johan and Pieter de la Court. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Wynter, Sylvia. “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument,” CR: The New Centennial Review (Fall 2003): 257–37.

Wynter, Sylvia. “1492: A New World View.” In Race, Discourse, and the Origin of the Americas, edited by Vera Lawrence Hyatt and Rex Nettleford, 5–57. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.

List of Illustrations

Fabiola Jean-Louis, They'll Say We Enjoyed It, 2020, archival pigment print, Courtesy of the Artist
Fig. 1 Fabiola Jean-Louis, They’ll Say We Enjoyed It, in Rewriting History, archival pigment print, 2020, https://www.fabiolajeanlouis.com/rewriting-history-color-prints. Image courtesy Fabiola Jean-Louis, https://www.fabiolajeanlouis.com/ [side-by-side viewer]
Jacob Laurence, Builders #1, 1972, watercolor, gouache, and graphite,St. Louis Museum of Art
Fig. 2 Jacob Lawrence, Builders #1, 1972, watercolor, gouache, and graphite, 22 7/16 x 30 3/4 in. (57 x 78.1 cm), St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis,  Eliza McMillan Trust,  93:1972, © 2020 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [side-by-side viewer]
Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza. Madrid,
Fig. 3 Romare Bearden, Sunday After Sermon, 1969, collage on cardboard, 101.6 x 127 cm,  Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Inv. no. 462, (1978.8). COPYRIGHT © As per the specifications of the heirs of the Copyright owner or the managing society. Provenance: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. [side-by-side viewer]

Footnotes

  1. 1. Eveline Sint Niclaas, Slavery (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2021), 304.

  2. 2. Enrique Salvador Rivera, “Whitewashing the Dutch Atlantic,” Social and Economic Studies 64, no. 1 (March 2015): 117–32.

  3. 3. Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 26 (June 2008): 1–14.

  4. 4. Alex van Stipriaan, ed., Op zoek naar de stilte: Sporen van het slavernijheden (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

  5. 5. Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007), 78.

  6. 6. Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 11.

  7. 7. “A Statement of Solidarity and Commitment from HNA,” Historians of Netherlandish art website, June 17, 2020, https://hnanews.org/a-statement-of-solidarity-and-commitment-from-hna.

  8. 8. Massing, Jean Michel, “Albert Eckhout, Frans Post and the Imagery of Afro-Americans in Seventeenth-Century Brazil.” In Studies in Imagery, II: The World Discovered (London: Pindar Press, 2007), 171. Originally published in Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries, ed. Jay A. Levenson ed. (Washington, DC, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in partnership with National Museum of African Art, 2007), 104–15 and 278–80.

  9. 9. Rizvana Bradley, “Picturing Catastrophe: The Visual Politics of Racial Reckoning,” The Yale Review, May 25, 2021, https://yalereview.org/article/picturing-catastrophe.

  10. 10. Caspar Barlaeus, Rerum per octennium in Brasilia et alibi nuper gestarum sub praefectura J. Mauritii, Nassoviae, 185. On Barlaeus’s view of slavery, see Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger, “Von Sklavenhandel und chrisüichen Vorbehalten: Die Aktualität von Caspar Barlaeus in Amerika und Afrika,” Sein Feld war die Welt: Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen (1604–1679), ed. Gerhard Brunn and Cornelius Neutsch. (Münster: Waxmann, 2008), 1.

  11. 11. Markus Vink, “’The World’s Oldest Trade’: Dutch Slavery and Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of World History 14, no. 2 (June 2003): 131–77. 

  12. 12. Reggie Baay, Daar werd iets gruwelijks verricht: Slavernij in Nederlands Indië (Amsterdam: Athenaeum, 2015); Matthias van Rossum, Kleurrijke Tragiek: De geschiedenis van slavernij in Azië onder de VOC (Hilversum: Verloren, 2015).

  13. 13. See Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).

  14. 14. Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1 (1989), https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1052&context=uclf. More recently, see Sumi Cho, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and Leslie McCall, “Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies: Theory, Applications, and Praxis,” Signs 38, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 785–810.

  15. 15. Mariët Westermann, “After Iconography and Iconoclasm: Current Research in Netherlandish Art, 1566–1700,” The Art Bulletin 84, no. 2 (June 2002): 351–72.

  16. 16. Westermann, “After Iconography,” 362.

  17. 17. For an overview of these debates, see Karwan Fatah-Black and Matthias Rossum, “Beyond Profitability: The Dutch Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Economic Impact on Slavery & Abolition,” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 36, no. 1 (2015): 63–83; David Eltis, Pieter C. Emmer, and Frank D. Lewis, “More than Profits? The Contribution of the Slave Trade to the Dutch Economy: Assessing Fatah-Black and Van Rossum,” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 37, no. 4 (2016): 724–35; Karwan Fatah-Black and Matthias Rossum, “A Profitable Debate?” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 37, no. 4 (2016): 736–43. Kwame Nimako and Glenn Willemsen argue that the Peace of Westphalia was inseparable from the transatlantic slave trade and the establishment of a new European economic order founded on collaboration and competition, and dependent on enslaved labor, in The Dutch Atlantic: Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation (New York and London: Pluto Press, 2011).

  18. 18. This, in contrast to exhibitions such as the Nieuwe Kerk’s Black is Beautiful (2008), which sought to counter what the curators perceived as “negative” imagery of people of African descent with a preponderance of supposedly “beautiful” representations of Blacks by predominantly white artists (i.e., “Rubens to Dumas”). The premise of this exhibition, as David Bindman pointed out, was problematic; see David Bindman, “Amsterdam: Black is Beautiful,” The Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1267 (October 2008): 709.

  19. 19. Elmer Kolfin and Epco Runia, eds., Zwart in Rembrandts tijd (Zwolle: WBOOKS and Museum Het Rembrandthuis, 2020). Also available in English translation. See also Esther Chadwick, “A Platter of Turnips,” London Review of Books 43, no. 1 (January 2021), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n01/esther-chadwick/a-platter-of-turnips.

  20. 20. Compare this to what Bindman and Gates characterize as the belief of Dominique de Menil (the French heiress who conceived the unprecedented scholarly project in part as a rejoinder to persistent segregation in her adopted city of Houston) that “relations between Europeans and Africans had not always been under the dark shadow of slavery” (emphasis ours), and that “even during slavery’s three-hundred year reign, artists of superior insight were able to depict the humanity of Africans with warmth and empathy.” David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 5, The Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 1.

  21. 21. Sylvia Wynter, “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument,” CR: The New Centennial Review (Fall 2003): 268. Earlier in the article (260), Wynter defines “overrepresentation” as “Man” representing itself “as if it were the human itself,” a dynamic not dissimilar to certain interpretive approaches to images of “blacks” and their/our visual representation from an unacknowledged/unrecognized location within structures and institutions that define humanity/the humanities while/through upholding white supremacy.

  22. 22. Katherine McKittrick, ed., Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 11.

  23. 23. David Scott, “The Re-Enchantment of Humanism: An Interview with Sylvia Wynter,” Small Axe 8 (September 2000): 195. See Sylvia Wynter, “1492: A New World View,” in Race, Discourse, and the Origin of the Americas, ed. Vera Lawrence Hyatt and Rex Nettleford (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995), 5–57.

  24. 24. Eveline Sint Niclaas et al., Slavernij: her verhaal van João, Wally, Oopjen, Paulus, Van Bengalen, Surapati, Sapali, Tula, Dirk, Lohkay (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2021); English translation Sint Niclaas, Slavery (op. cit). This exhibition also builds on an important series produced by the Rijksmuseum engaging with Dutch colonial histories; see in particular Gijs van der Ham, Dof Goud: Ghana en Nederland sinds 1593 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2009); Eveline Sint Niclaas, Ketens en banden: Suriname en Nederland sinds 1600 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2018); Harm Stevens, Gepeperd Verleden: Indonesië en Nederland sinds 1600 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2015); Martine Gosselink, Maria Holtrop, and Robert Ross, Goede Hoop: Zuid-Afrika en Nederland sinds 1600 (Amsterdam and Nijmegen: Rijksmuseum, 2017). All of these are available in English translations, and, tellingly, none of the volumes have been reviewed by HNA Reviews.

  25. 25. Carolina Monteiro and Erik Odegard, “Slavery at the Court of the ‘Humanist Prince’: Reexamining Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen and His Role in Slavery, Slave Trade, and Slave-Smuggling in Brazil,” Journal of Early American History 10, no. 1 (2020): 3–32.

  26. 26. “Research Project: BRASILIAE. Indigenous Knowledge in the Making of Science: Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648),” University of Leiden website, https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/research/research-projects/archaeology/brasiliae.-indigenous-knowledge-in-the-making-of-science-historia-naturalis-brasiliae-1648, accessed June 16, 2021.

  27. 27. Deborah Silverman, “Part I: Art Nouveau, Art of Darkness: African Lineages of Belgian Modernism,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 18, no. 2 (Fall–Winter 2011): 142, 144.

  28. 28. Jenny Folsom, “Antwerp’s Appetite for African Hands,” Contexts 15, no. 4 (Fall 2016): 65.

  29. 29. Damian Skinner, “Settler-Colonial Art History: A Proposition in Two Parts / Histoire de l’art colonialo-allochtone: proposition en deux volets,” Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d’histoire de l’art Canadien 35 (2014): 163–64.

  30. 30. Allison Blakely, Blacks in the Dutch World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), xi.

  31. 31. Susan Buck-Morss, “Hegel and Haiti,” Critical Inquiry 26, no. 4 (Summer 2000), 825. See also Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).

  32. 32. Simon Gikandi, “Overture: Sensibility in the Age of Slavery,” Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 1–3.

  33. 33. The most recent study to consider images of Black people by Dürer, Rubens, etc. in these terms is by a sociologist who retraces much well-traveled art historical ground, importantly situating canonical imagery vis-à-vis weight/fat phobia and race. See Sabrina Strings, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia (New York: New York University Press, 2019), 15–43, 43–53.

  34. 34. Patricia J. Saunders, “Fugitive Dreams of Diaspora: Conversations with Saidiya Hartman,” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal 6, no. 1 (June 2008), 2, http://doi.org/10.33596/anth.115.

  35. 35. The series was acquired in 2021 by Yale’s Beinecke Library. See: https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/article/new-acquisition-rewriting-history-fabiola-jean-louis.

  36. 36. See, in this issue of JHNA: Bernhard Ridderbos, “Choices and Intentions in the Mérode Altarpiece,” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 14, no. 1 (Winter 2022), https://doi.org/10.5092/jhna.2022.14.1.2.

  37. 37. To our knowledge, the only contemporaneous critic to make this connection was C. E. B., “A Watercolor by Jacob Lawrence and a Pastel by Wayne Thiebaud,” St. Louis Art Museum Bulletin 8, no. 4 (1972): 54.

  38. 38. Romare Bearden, “Rectangular Structure in My Montage Paintings,” Leonardo 2, no. 1 (January 1969): 12.

  39. 39. Grace Glueck, “A Brueghel from Harlem,” New York Times, February 22, 1970, 29. Quoted in Lee Stephens Glazer, “Signifying Identity: Art and Race in Romare Bearden’s Projections,” The Art Bulletin 76, no. 3 (September 1994): 419.

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DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2022.14.1.1
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J. Vanessa Lyon, Caroline Fowler, "Revision and Reckoning: The Legacy of Slavery in Histories of Northern Art," Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 14:1 (Winter 2022) DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2022.14.1.1