Because I receive more and more requests from abroad for the exhibition catalogue Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas from 2008, I will publish, again, some of my research and writings in this book. The book has become unaffordable on Amazon. The exhibition and catalogue provided an overview of seven centuries of imagination of black people in Dutch art. It now appears to have become an important reference work for many. I heard that one of the works that are now being further investigated is the portrait of a young woman below.
In this painting by Simon Maris a young black woman in nineteenth-century clothing is seated on a large, probably seventeenth-century chair, although it may also be a reproduction. The little portrait has a theatrical air, on account of the fan which the woman holds in her hand and the large hat against which her face stands out so beautifully. A mirror also shows her hat from the rear. The woman’s face and hands have been finely finished, while her clothing has been painted in loose strokes around her.
Several versions of this girl or woman were painted by Maris. The Rijksmuseum continues (in 2008) to call the work Little negress, while another, probably much later version has been entitled both Mrs. Allwood and Mrs. Alting. The latter title derives from an owner of the work who claimed to have bought the picture from Maris himself. So this black woman may have been called Mrs Alting.
Simon Maris came from the renowned family of painters, Willem (1844-1910), Matthijs (1839-1917) and Jacob Maris (1838-1899). His father Willem Maris gave him lessons and Simon’s work was influenced by these lessons for the rest of his life. In 1892 he trained briefly at the Haagse Academie; in 1895 he went to Antwerp to continue his studies at the academy there. After the death of Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918), Simon Maris was regarded as the leading portraitist in Amsterdam.
For many years he was also a close friend of Piet Mondriaan.
It was remarkable friendship between an iconoclast of the early twentieth century and a conservative observer and transmitter of traditions. Maris’ work always remained indebted to his immediate predecessors of the Hague School, although many modernists met in his studio.
Esther Schreuder in Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas catalogue (2008).
Research made possible through funding from the Mondriaan Foundation and the VSB fund
See for further information and research also http://www.trevorpatemanblog.com/2019/04/simon-maris-young-girl-with-fan.html
And recent about her identity https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/06/17/maris-vrouw-met-waaier-heet-isabella-en-is-een-meisje-van-12-a4003061?fbclid=IwAR18iS4Fnyx_HDrKpBxHHEBQtijBUuP0ynVrWt3j2mTiK2e25K6oBOh-TS0
In 2008 I was guest curator of the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas. Important advisors Elizabeth McGrath (Rubens and colleagues, Warburg institute Image of the Black in Western Art collection), Carl Haarnack (slavery in books), Elmer Kolfin (slavery in prints and paintings) en Adi Martis (contemporary art). Gary Schwartz made his research for The Image of the Black in Western Art available to me.
In 2014 my essay ‘Painted Blacks and Radical Imagery in the Netherlands (1900-1940)’ was published in The Image of the Black in Western Art Volume V (I). (ed. David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates jr.)
In 2017 I published a book about the black servants at the Court of the Royal Van Oranje family. More than a thousand documents have been found about their lives. (only in Dutch)
All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hesitate to contact me.