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De Staalmeesters – van Rembrandt


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reprise of the article “Black History: Black European nobility tucked away”

Black nobility in Europe? According to black Dutch researcher Egmond Codfried and author of the book “Belle van Zuylen’s forgotten grandmother” there was black nobility in Europe, but their history and images were later carefully hidden, edited out or painted over. His claims are controversial, and of course not accepted by European historians and the man in the street. Codfried has systematically studied hundreds of paintings of famous and less famous nobility. He regularly stumbled upon people who looked black or coloured, or although they were white, clearly had African facial features.

Maria Jacoba van Goor

Codfried writes: “This study of historical sources and literature on black and coloured historic persons was inspired by the chance finding of a portrait of Maria Jacoba van Goor. We get a view of the problems and of the methods to identify these Europeans. This beautiful painting was also a reason to cast an afrocentric view at Belle van Zuylens life and her works, the biographies en the origin of her financial fortune. Through her coloured grandmother, the Dutch Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805) also known as Madame de Charrière, joins the rank of writers as the Russian Alexander Pushkin, the French Alexander Dumas and Colette, the Britons Elizabeth Barrett and her husband Robert Browning. As well as the German classic composer Ludwig von Beethoven and Queen Charlotte of Britain. These are Europeans of great merit, who had black forefathers. Also we find that Belle was a friend of Pierre Alexander Du Peyrou (1729-1794), a brown coloured and wealthy Surinam plantation owner in Swiss. Belle is renowned as a close friend, benefactor and publisher of the most famous philosopher of the Enlightenment, Jean Jaques Rousseau.

Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Dumas

Jean Etienne Liotard


Also from writings of contemporaries to make that more black and colored people lived in Europe than they appear, writes Codfried. So was it written that someone “the milk of a black woman would have drunk” or “chocolate” would have eaten. Also, blacks by their surroundings as “the chimney sweeper” called. Or it was said that those “bad complexion” or had always “a burnt head”. Codfried: “Many portraits show pure white faces while it is established that the person sometimes black or chocolate brown was, as Constantijn Huygens, Charles II Stuart, Madame de Stael, Baron Aarnoud Joost van der Duyn and Pierre-Alexander Dupeyrou. Moreover it is known that the famous classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was quite black and nicknamed “the black Spaniard” bore. Habsburg emperor Leopold I, Holy Roman Empire was Swinburne described as “a short, big black man.” His portraits show “the dancing emperor” as a black man with very thick lips and a forward lower half of the face. Duchess Charlotte Sophie of Mecklenburg Strelitz (1740-1818), queen of George III of England and grandmother of Queen Victoria, had, according to her physician a “true mulattengezicht” . In this case show the paintings by Sir Ramsay clearly a woman of color. ”

Maurits Huygens

sophie von mecklenburg

van Beethoven

Codfried’s research is important, pioneering work. And though his book is now and then a little messy reading, it is nevertheless quite convincing. Mainly because of the dozens of images. Concepts of racism occasionally creep in, with all the talk about lip thickness, nose width, eye color, color, curliness of hair, the distance between the nose and upper lip, the protrusion from the bottom of the face, and so on. This raises associations with the skull measuring the Nazi “scientists”. On the other hand the theory, if you proceed, is justified in that there are many more black and colored people living in the Netherlands and Europe than normally assumed. Codfried is fortunately very clear that he is only comparing the appearance of people, and that he does not believe in the existence of “races”. “Skin color and ethnicity are in some ways more artificial social constructs than biological realities, but like other social structures such as gender or nobility very decisive for the individual,” he writes.

reprised from “Black and colored nobility stashed away”
and the Afro-Europe International blog

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