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News & Views

Celebrating Black Lives: Balthazar

We mark the festive season with a look at the depictions of the Black African Balthazar, one of the three Magi.

‘Early medieval written legends report that one of the three kings who paid homage to the Christ Child in Bethlehem was from Africa. But it would take nearly 1,000 years for European artists to begin representing Balthazar, the youngest of the three kings, as a black man. Writing in the eighth century, an author known to us only as Pseudo-Bede mentioned “a dark, fully bearded king called Balthazar.” Yet despite further written descriptions of Balthazar as a black African, European artists continued to represent him as a white king for centuries. The African identity of the third Magus was alluded to in European art for the first time in 1266, when artist Nicola Pisano sculpted two African attendants in a scene with the Magi.’ He is depicted here in a detail taken from The Adoration of the Magi from a Book of Hours, about 1480–90, Georges Trubert.

Text taken from the Getty blog. Read the full article.

Each month we mark the significant life of a person of colour as a positive statement and a contribution to redressing historical imbalances in our society.

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