art history


Hans Memling

Triptych of Jan Floreins (detail)

Germany/Flanders (1479)

Oil on oak panel, 46,3 x 57,4 cm (central panel), 48 x 25 cm (each wing)

Groeninge Museum at Saint John’s Hospital, Bruges

[source], [source], [entire work]

One of the cool things about this particular painting is that it was painted for Saint John’s hospital, and is still there. Jan Floreins is the patron who ordered this painting made, and he as well as several other figures in this work are represented in it.

Whoa, chalice guy is on fleek! Saluting with his hat like “yes you’re right I do have the best outfit at this party, you’re welcome Saint John’s Hospital”

Love him, love his gorgeous houppelande(?), wish I knew who he had been. Stay awesome, chalice guy.

Hey! Just before I ask, this is a totally amazing blog. Kudos to you for making it. So, I was wondering if you have any painting(s)/picture(s) references towards the following ethnicities and their clothing: (this is set during the 1800s ). A Prussian General, a Victorian Gentleman, a Victorian painter woman, a Greek male scholar, a Portuguese prince, and a Dutch prince. ( I was planning to make a story about these, and i need references, so that i could draw them. ) Help a friend out?


Well, thank you.

First things first, none of the categories you’ve defined here are “ethnicities”.
They’re all jobs and nationalities, or jobs and time period, depending on what you mean by “Victorian.” I’m assuming that, since you’re asking me, you want to see people of color wearing these outfits before you draw them? That’s not really necessary. You can really just search for fashion references, then make the person in the outfit a person of color.

I’m guessing you’re making a comic or illustrated story, since you mention wanting visual references for drawing-there’s nothing stopping you from making a bazillion drawings of people of color wearing whatever historical costume you fancy them wearing.
Sadly, some people seem to find it brain-breaking to envision a person who isn’t white wearing a dang cravat, so this blog is full of images of actual people (even religious and mythological subjects used models), so have at it if you need inspiration.

If you want to just browse around, you should check out the “1800s Week” tag here; that’s more if you just want general visual fashion references like this:

But to go bit by bit specifically, I’ll do what I can for ya.

1. Prussian General

This one’s not hard at all, you’ll find thousands of resources from a google image search, or you can check out what the Deutsches Historiches Museum has available.

Here’s Gustav Sabac El Cher, an Afro-Prussian military musician:

You might find Germany and the Black Diaspora: Points of Contact, 1250-1914, ed. Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke, and Anne Kuhlmann useful for your research here.

For European generals of color in general (ha…), you might wanna check out Ivan Abramovich Gannibal (1735-1801):

And Abram Petrovich Gannibal, his father, and incidentally the great grandfather of Alexandre Pushkin, whose unfinished novel Peter the Great’s Moor, is about his life as a military commander:

And of course, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie:

2. Victorian Gentleman

This is also not very difficult. If you want specific names or regions to explore, and we take “Victorian” to mean “British”, here’s an interactive map of Black Londoners 1800-1900 you can check out, all people who actually lived and worked there. There’s Black Victorians/Black Victoriana by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina; There’s also John Archer, the mayor of Battersea South London.

You also don’t get more “Victorian” than Queen Victoria’s actual secretary, Abdul Karim (called “the Munshi”):

And then there’s always the unparalleled hotness that is a young Alexandre Dumas (yes, THE Alexandre Dumas!!):

3. Victorian Painter Woman

Well, here’s Edmonia Lewis, an artist living & working in Europe during the time specified:

A woman of Ojibwe, Haitian, and African-American heritage, she was
accused of poisoning her female classmates with an aphrodisiac because she was gay, then a LOT of
bad stuff happened, then some good stuff, then some WEIRD stuff, and
somehow she ended up rich, single, and working in Rome until her death,
sometime around 1911.

I wanna say there was evidence that this woman painted by Eugene Delacroix was a working artist in Paris as well:

For more on art and artists, check out What Jane Saw, which is a recreation of an actual art exhibit Jane Austen attended in 1813, it’s pretty great.

Also Fanny Eaton:

4. A Greek Scholar

Okay, for this one you’ve GOT to check out Christos the Athenian:

He was multilingual, an independent thinker, and had good knowledge of
politics and diplomacy. He was a distinguished and much loved member of
Athenean society, a favourite subject of many contemporary painters,
sculptors, and poets. When the painter Gyzis came to Athens, Christos
was a living legend and he painted him on many occasions between
1871-1875 other than the portrait:

Head of an Arab
Oriental man with a musical instrument
Oriental man smoking
Oriental man with fruit
The punishment of the chicken thief (first man on the right)

5. A Portuguese Prince

You don’t really have to guess with this one; here’s Michael of Braganza (1802-1866), as Infante of Portugal in exile in Vienna:

6. A Dutch Prince

Welp for that you’re gonna want either William II or III of the Netherlands and they basically all just look like this more or less:

As you can see, once you get to princes there’s not “a Prince” it’s literally just “the prince at this time of this nation was this guy” type of thing. At least when it comes to Crown Princes and such, but you can go ahead and check out the families and the youngest sons and daughters and royal nephews or whatever and see who they were. It just depends on if you’re like, writing historical fiction and want to keep your facts straight or if you’re doing some kinda alternate-history or fantasy type deal in which case you can quite literally do whatever you want.

Cool facts and awesome art!

Most PoC in these paintings are slaves/servants. Why would you be proud of that? People of color will never be European.


Wowww. I mean, I get messages like this all the time, but this says so much about YOU and your worldview, and basically nothing about anyone else. Much less whoever you intended to insult with this.

I mean, is “being European” some kind of accomplishment? It’s obvious you seem to think that, so much so that you imagine that people who aren’t must somehow secretly long to be. There’s little to no logical consistency between any statement you’ve made here.

All I see is regurgitated racist lies that are obviously false, and demonstrate with embarrassing clarity that your identity is an empty construct based entirely on what it is not, and who it excludes. The smallness of your worldview would be pitiful if it didn’t have so much violence behind it.

You can cover your eyes and throw a tantrum, but the truth stays true, and European history still includes a fascinating, complex, and mind-blowingly diverse cast of human beings throughout all aspects of society.

from medieval European imaginings of Jesus

To the Virgin Mary

to the Gondoliers of Medieval and Renaissance Venice

The serfs in Russia

The entourage of the Holy Roman Emperor

The holiest embodiments of virtue

Studies in beauty and grace

From champions of military might

to diplomatic negotiators of peace

From the most sacred

to the debauched and profane

History is beautiful, and diverse, and full of so much immense possibility that I never really stop being in awe of it. If you can’t see the beauty in that, that’s your problem.

Aside from the importance of the point being made here, I wanna say I am *absolutely in love* with some of these paintings (I could look at #4, #7 and #9 all day)