Peter Lely

Portrait of Elizabeth Murray

England (c. 1650)

Oil on canvas, 124 x 119 cm

[x] [x] [x] [x]

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


Level 1: People of Color from Medieval, Renaissance, and other Early Modern European works were often literally painted over in later decades or centuries.

For example: In this painting, Giulia de’Medici (the child) was painted over in the 19th century:


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):


Actual Painting:


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.

They cropped out or painted over the people that aren’t white?! WTF is wrong with humans???