Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why This Image of a Black Demon Leading St. Francis Was Sort of a Good Thing

Nicolas Francès, detail of St. Francis before the sultan, circa 1445-60. Tempera on panel. Prado, Madrid
The image of the black demon resolutely leading Francis before the sultan stands at the crossroads of the reception of black people in late-medieval Spain. He appears here simultaneously as the symbolic equivalence of evil in the European consciousness and as a manifestation of the newly arriving numbers of actual black people in Spain. Blackness, and blacks themselves, were considered the allies of the Muslim invaders. On the other hand, the essential naturalism of the black figure leading Francis may indicate the increasing familiarity with actual people of African descent in Spain during this period. [link]