In the 1960s, art patron Dominique de Menil founded an image archive showing the ways that people of African descent have been represented in Western art. Highlights from her collection appeared in three large-format volumes that quickly became collector’s items. A half-century later, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute are proud to publish a complete set of ten sumptuous books, including new editions of the original volumes and two additional ones.
Europe and the World Beyond focuses geographically on peoples of South America and the Mediterranean as well as Africa—but conceptually it emphasizes the many ways that visual constructions of blacks mediated between Europe and a faraway African continent that was impinging ever more closely on daily life, especially in cities and ports engaged in slave trade.
This volume, part of a monumental series about the depiction of black peoples in Western art history, covers the period from the Renaissance and Baroque eras into the imperialism and colonialism of the 18th century… The volume is richly illustrated with artworks from many sources in a wide variety of media… This volume and the rest of the series has inestimable value in furthering understanding of how attitudes toward issues of race have evolved.
Inspired to collect images of Africans and the diaspora during the height of the Civil Rights movement, Dominique Schlumberger de Menil and her husband John amassed over 30,000 images as an artistic and academic counter against racism. These images were sorted, studied, and grouped into a series of volumes originally published in the late 1970s and early 1980s; long out of print, they are now beautifully reproduced along with additional color plates and scholarly commentary. This edition focuses on the depictions of blacks during the 16th–18th centuries. Due to Eurocentric attitudes of the time, few works depict black individuals; rather, people of African descent were often studied at an anthropological level and commonly depicted as pages, slaves, or servants. Though the series has rightfully become embraced by academia, even armchair historians will find the book to be a feast of information and commentary. Digressions on the black Magus and the debate about the race of Madonna and Jesus are fascinating, but it is the breathtaking collection of artwork that makes the greatest impact. The rich and varied array, printed on high-quality paper, must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Monumental and groundbreaking volumes…[with] beautifully reproduced and thought-provoking images… A vast array of different ‘Images of the Black’ appear in these volumes, from statues of black saints such as St. Maurice or St. Benedict the Moor, to portraits of notable African ambassadors and kings, poets and musicians, or drawings of literary characters such as Shakespeare’s Othello, Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, or Yarico from George Colman’s Inkle and Yarico… Africans have been painted and sculpted by some of the most eminent artists in the Western tradition, including Titian, Tiepolo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Reynolds, Hogarth, Watteau and Gainsborough. More importantly, they have not been caricatured, but sensitively portrayed by these masters, their humanity captured on canvas for all to see… In placing such a vast variety of different images together, both positive and negative, these volumes show that the ‘Image of the Black’ was not at all homogenous but rather reflected the wide range of the Western response to the ‘other.’ …Seen through the prism of ‘Western Art,’ these ‘Images of the Black’ often tell us more about the Europeans and their agendas than the Africans they portray. Nonetheless, the cumulative effect of the images is to demonstrate a continuous black presence in the Western imagination and experience… This series will pose new questions to scholars of art, history and literature and provoke us all to reconsider the role of ‘the Black’ in Western civilization.
A fascinating story of the changing image of Africa’s people in Western art. The images are simply extraordinary and the scholarship inspiring. Anyone who cares about Western art or about Africa and her diaspora ought to know these magnificent volumes.
In addition to being an indispensable guide to the evolving meanings of racial difference, these dazzling volumes filled with extraordinary images and rich arguments contribute to an alternative history of the Western world. An invaluable gift for both specialists and general readers.
- 528 pages
- Belknap Press
- Associate editor Karen C. C. Dalton
- Text by Jean Michel Massing
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