10 Portrait of Don Miguel de Castro Emissary of Congo: Reworked with West African prints, cream crackers and serving spoon

Brathwaite holding metal spoon and wearing patterned gold-coloured shirt under black tunic, also wide brimmed black hat with two cream crackers stuck into hatband

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.

Original Work

Black man richly-dressed with gold-embroidered shirt and tooled sword belt; also wide-brimmed black hat with large orange feather decoration

Jaspar Beckx, 'Don Miguel de Castro. Emissary of Kongo', 1643. Statens Museum for Kunst, www.smk.dk, public domain.


Location D map

Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS

Law Building, Somerset House, Strand
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