One of the few portraits of Black Africans from this period whose identify we can verify with certainty, the original painting was completed in 1643 and now hangs in the Copenhagen Statens Museum for Kunst.
An envoy from the court of Kongo, Don Miguel travelled to Brazil before arriving in the Dutch Republic, where the Dutch West India Company commissioned the artist Jaspar Beckx to paint his portrait. A total of six portraits of Don Miguel and his two servants (Diego Bemba and Pedro Sunda) were completed.
Dom Miguel’s attire, in the Portuguese style, testifies to his wealth
and power, as well as to strong links between early modern Kongo and
Portugal. By this time, the Dutch Republic was one of the largest
traders in enslaved peoples globally. Diplomatic and mercantile
relationships between the Dutch Republic and African kingdoms were
key to this process.
An important shift takes place in the broader history of Black representation as we start to get images of individuals, ie recognisable, individual sitters whose identities are known to us.
Jaspar Beckx, 'Don Miguel de Castro. Emissary of Kongo', 1643. Statens Museum for Kunst, www.smk.dk, public domain.
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