From Kongo to Othello to Tango to Museum Shows:
In 1902 the Walters Art Museum acquired a Pontormo painting of an Italian noblewoman, Maria Salviati, dated ca. 1539. Back then it was considered a portrait of a woman whose hands were “in funny places,” as Gary Vikan, the museum’s director, puts it. Then in 1937, restorers removed some over-painting—and discovered a child was there. That child was assumed to be a portrait of Maria’s son, Cosimo de’ Medici.
Then it turned out that he was a she.
Now curators say the boy was a girl–Giulia de’ Medici. The daughter of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, who was believed to be the son of a black female servant, Giulia is thought to have been the most prominent European woman of African descent at that time. This discovery helped inspire “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe,” an inventive show at the Walters that enlists familiar faces of art history to spotlight lesser-known ones in social history. Read more.
THE WALTERS ART MUSEUM, BALTIMORE, ACQUIRED BY HENRY WALTERS WITH THE MASSARENTI COLLECTION, 1902 (37.596).