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LIGHT, DARKNESS, AND AFRICAN SALVATION: VELÁZQUEZ'S SUPPER AT EMMAUS

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Abstract:

This study locates Velázquez's Supper at Emmaus (c. 1617/18) within early seventeenth-century debates on the Christian conversion of Seville's African slaves. Through a careful analysis of writings by Sevillian clerics, the essay argues that Velázquez gave pictorial form to discourse on African spiritual ‘illumination’ and developing theories of skin colour. Treatises by Seville's ecclesiastics also provide crucial insight into the original, elite audience for whom Velázquez surely constructed his African subject. In Supper at Emmaus, Velázquez presented his male beholder with one possession encompassed within another: a female slave in a painting by Seville's most promising young artist.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8365.2007.00584.x

Affiliations: Johns Hopkins University

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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