Every time I see someone who complains that the inclusion of people of colour in historical fantasy/film/novels/tv is part of a politically correct agenda, I want to point to these images and say, “Look. Painted from models. Models who were living in Europe. These artists weren’t including people of colour for political correctness. They were included because they were there.”
I recently received a message asking about what kind of jobs and occupations a Medieval European of color might have, as they had only seen “merchant” and “solider” listed as possible occupations in specific articles.
Part of the problem is framing the inquiry that way, since at this point it’s…
Almost all the descriptions you read at museum websites for these works either
1. ignore the people of color, or
2. Go on and on about how “EXCEPTIONAL” and “Super First EVER!” that particular work is.
1,500-ish works of art posted on medievalpoc later and I’m here like…well….not so much. At all, really.
The National Portrait Gallery claims this one as “the first”, The Walters says this one is “the first”, The National Gallery of Art seems flummoxed that Dürer could have somehow encountered “an African!" totally ignoring the Black German in this other print in the SAME collection, and the SAME slideshow!.
Just to underscore how absolutely ridiculous a claim like “inclusion=political correctness” I’ve posted some scenes like this one of a bustling waterfront, where it’s kind of painfully obvious how many rather specifically Black people of all stations and occupations were living their Medieval lives in Europe (Netherlandish,c. 1570):
This is a painting by a Netherlandish artist of Lisbon, Portugal about 80 years after the Jews and Muslims, known as Moors, were driven out by the Reconquista and Iberia was permanently Christianized with the aid of the notorious Spanish Inquisition.
Now, in discussions of the history of Al Andalus, which was the name for Muslim Iberia, I’ve heard a lot of debate about whether the Islamic Moors were black Africans or lighter skinned Muslims who were simply known by the catch-all term of ‘Moor’ to white Europeans. I dunno if a contemporary painting is considered hard archaeological evidence, but if these people are descended from Moors and later converted to Christianity, THEY LOOK PRETTY BLACK TO ME.
So in my own depictions of Al Andalus, expect to see a lot of people of color.