Sunday, December 14, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #18

From Spaniard and Black, Mulatto (De Espanol, Y Negra. Mulato) Attributed to Jose de Alcibar, 1760-1770, Oil on canvas, 31 x 38 1/4 in. (Art during the Colonial Era)

Ethnic mixing is not new - this work shows a common situation in colonial Mexico in which different races came together in marriage and produced a child that at that time was labeled "mulatto". The painting is a genre scene (showing an everyday happening). The woman is wearing a rebozo (see previous AcDec post about rebozos), which indicates she is of middle- or lower-class. She is cooking and gazing affectionately at husband and son. The father also gazes down on his small son with a loving expression.

The young boy is the focal point of the composition. He is lifting a brazier so his father can light his cigar. This skillful oil painting is careful in the portrayal of each subject's body positions and facial expressions. This piece (numbered 6) (you can see the label in the upper left hand corner) is one in a series that would have comprised a set. For someone to have owned a set of paintings this size, they would have been from the more wealthy social class.

The elite felt threatened by people who mixed racially, but race relationships were complicated and confusing because you couldn't always identify a person's race just from their appearance. People of European descent (and especially those from Spain) wanted to identify strongly with their white, European heritage to maintain positions of power.

Check out this PowerPoint about art in the Colonial era.

1 comment:

Ms. Judy Krassowski said...

Hello TAG and best wishes to all of you for an interesting and healthy 2009!

I felt that this work and the topic of race in art is timely - over the holiday, there was a news item regarding an interracial couple who produced yet another miracle in today's world - a second set of twins who exhibit two different skin tones! To me, this family, as are all of us, truly blessed to be living NOW, where we have the potential to raise our children to be "color-blind". I'm reminded of this within my own family as we've put together a series of photographs for family friends from the "olden days" - we're quite a mixed group - Eastern European, Irish, Italian, African-American both light and very dark, Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean - our kids say that we all look like one of those tins of Danish specialty cookies!

Benefitting from the multicultural influences of the "Big D", have any of your art classes produced works that involve ethnic heritage? Our 7th grade global art class has entertained some suggestions from our community members involving Celtic knots and Russian triptychs, but we'd like to go a little more 3D. Can you share some thoughts from your locale?

Ms. K in Chester NH