Examined Life 4: Magnificent Black Men but only if Immobilized in Paint


Three paintings in the European tradition.


Two of them are known to have been staged. 


A genre of paintings which flattered the romantic view of  ‘the Orient’ held by many Europeans  (Edward Said:  ‘Orientalism’ published 1978).


This romanticism comforted and camouflaged their colonial misadventures.


To my knowledge, this genre does not exist in North American painting:

this continent beginning its own imperial misadventures a generation after these paintings were executed with its own ascension to super-power status. 


Even if – so it seems to me – these images are among the deep sources appropriated by the life-enhancing movement called Afro-Futurism

with its expressions in the graphic, literary, musical and performing arts.   (Praise be!)




 Head of a Moor, 1870, The Corcoran Collection of The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. 2014

Staged and painted in Tunis with the co-operation of a local by by Henri Regnault,  1843-1871, French.






The  Moorish Chief (originally The Guardian of the Seraglio), 1878; oil on panel; believed to have been shown at the Salon in that year.


Eduard Charlemont, 1848-1906; Austrian.  Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Said to be one of the most popular paintings in the museum, people stand in front of it for significant stretches of time, blissful in their anachronistic appreciation of a reversal of our current race realities.





Bashi Bazouk, 1868/69, oil on canvas. 

Jean-Léon Gérôme , 1824–1904, French.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.


The artist staged this portrait in his studio with fabric and artifacts he brought back from a trip to the Near East. The name of the painting was the name of unpaid irregulars who fought for the Ottoman Turks for plunder.  Though not dressed up in this finery.















3 thoughts on “Examined Life 4: Magnificent Black Men but only if Immobilized in Paint

  1. Les maures sont qualifiés de “noirs” (Othello par exemple) et représentés comme des noirs d’Afrique subsaharienne, mais tout est relatif ; En fait les maures sont les marocains.

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