Hi, first of all, I love your blog, but I'm having trouble finding some things you wrote about a while ago. I do remember you writing something about people (I think it was the 1800s?) painting over old paintings, making poc in them look white? I'm writing a small paper about being critical to sources, and thought this would be relevant. And there's also that time you posted about images being used in education having cropped away poc in them. I can't seem to find either of them again D: Help?
*waves Jedi hand*
This is the tag search you’re looking for…
As for the whole painting over issue, I don’t know about painting people to look white, but Giulia De’Medici was painted over entirely in the 19th century in this earlier portrait. Did you mean this painting in which a white woman was painted over to match the Victorian ideals of beauty?
It’s a rather fascinating story. You can read about it here at Carnegie Magazine , and see more photos of before, during, and after the restoration.
All I’ve mentioned about it is that there is plenty of evidence that Victorian-era museums and art curators were more than willing to change earlier artworks drastically to suit their ideas and ideals. And that many of these changes are only now being discovered, so it’s very important to stop assuming that these earlier artworks are coming to us somehow untouched by the intervening centuries.
Does this mean that I am saying that they’ve painted over images that may have been of people we would consider poc with “whiter” faces or skin colors? No, I don’t currently have any evidence to support a statement like that, and I don’t make a habit of making statements without a very good reason ( although some people tend to disagree on that, lol).
What I AM saying is that the current and future art historians, curators, researchers, and restorers need to be asking these questions now.
I’ve done what I’m doing, and it’s up to the current and next generation to take these questions into their respective disciplines and specializations, because this is obviously not a one-person job; this is something I believe can create new disciplines and concentrations. I think this is something interesting that people can relate to and get excited about.
I mean, you can say that this (wondering if there are more altered artworks, and if they may contain people of color) is just speculation, but well, of course it is. Research without questions is kind of pointless. If Ellen Baxter hadn’t speculated that the painting above was more than just a bad Renaissance portrait, it would never have been x-rayed, and the portrait underneath the Victorian-era revision would have remained hidden from history forever.
I think that by being critical, analytical, and actively engaging with art history, we can prevent that from happening and maybe even blow our minds with new discoveries.
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