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Unlock the secrets of Renaissance Art

 

The mission is to show the historical presence of Black people between the 15-17th Centuries and understand how racialized ideas of history, national belonging, and citizenship have been produced and adapted over time. By analysing these concepts and drawing attention to other ways of thinking about who belongs in society, we expose evidence which clearly undermines exclusionary ideas that continue to trouble us today.

Illustrated by narrated factual discoveries and fictional re-enactments, the Renaissance characters in this documentary help the audience restore a sense of continuity and depict the natural evolution of Afro-Europeans in paintings.

 

The film shows that during that time, people of African descent made important contributions to society that were intentionally ignored and silenced. .

Artworks are the most evident testimony of the African presence. The most relevant artists of the Renaissance show us that WE WERE HERE through powerful images, hidden from the public for too long. Additional supporting elements are the commissioners and patrons of these works, who belong to great families in power of European and African courts. There is a particular focus on the female presence which was used and manipulated to exoticize the charm of the African culture and population.

 

The artworks are fundamental because then, much more than now, they were directly controlled by their commissioners. They chose the artists and the message they wanted to convey, thus manipulating the public whom they conveyed it to. Often they had to testify the power and importance of the commissioner and his entourage. For this reason, too, the presence of the Africans in Renaissance art is not just a liberal artistic interpretation of the times. Still, along with historical travel reports of diplomats and other relevant figures, they are a reflection of the cultural and social canons of the period. 

Paths followed by Africans arriving in Europe Circumstances of servitude or slavery in Europe Circumstances of enslaved African women  Diplomatic exchanges between Africa and Europe Relationships between the Vatican State and African priests Impressions of Africa which developed amongst the European explorers Cases of children of African descent born into freedom because often slavery was not inherited Worship of Black Saints and Madonnas Prominent Africans who were engaged in European courts in powerful positions, e.g. counselors, soldiers, diplomats  Significance of Black Lives Matter in Contemporary Europe

ARTISTS

Tiziano, Rembrandt, Mostaert, Mantegna, Caravaggio, Dürer, Lippi, Bronzino, Pontorno, Carracci, Vasari, Rubens, Suttermans, Michelangelo, Galque, Weiditz, Tacca, Gozzoli, Maris, Veronese, Wells, Tintoretto, David, De Morais, Cordier, Van Der Elburcht, Hagenauer, Mostaert, Caporale, Vermeyen, David, Du Mortier, and others.

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WHY NOW

The recent mass demonstrations of Black Lives Matter and consequent conversations about racism have highlighted both the need to know more about the histories of people of African descent and the urgency with which we must change the teaching of colonial history in the Global North. The film is a response to these needs. It aims to provide multiple stories as a starting point to learn about the past and to dismantle racial oppression in the present.

 

The names and identities of the majority of the slaves, freed men and women, and travelers are lost, diluted in history. To recognize their existence through the art of that time is our way of bringing them back to the attention of the contemporary world.

The interest towards this topic has spread continuously over the past century, starting from a restricted circle of academic scholars and spreading globally over the years due to the boom of social media, through the pages and platforms of digital activists.

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The interviewees have helped to shape the documentary in which the filmmaker weaves through a journey tracing black presence in the period. In particular Dr. John Brackett encouraged Fred to return to Europe and personally walk through ancestral paths engaging in artistic and historical studies beyond the US.  SEE THE CAST

The journey has inspired us to not only complete the interviews interspersed with

b-roll of the locations discussed and reviewed, but also enhance the overall quality of the documentary by adding re-enactment  scenes to the production. We have selected 6 main characters we would like to focus on for the re-enactment scenes.

A King

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Alessandro De' Medici

(aka The Moor; 1510-1537), was the first Duke to dominate Florence. The biological son of a greatly potent Medici and Simonetta da Collevecchio, an African slave. At the peak of the Renaissance, it is surprising to discover an Afro-Italian man governing a Western power, such as Florence. His presence sparks many queries, and it reveals the lights and shadows within the Renaissance. Papa Clemente VII’s support for Alessandro in his rise to power, despite the claims of his cousin and rival Ippolito de’ Medici, casts doubts on the Duke’s father’s real identity.

A Saint

Benedict the Moor

(Italian: Benedetto da San Fratello; 1524 –1589) was a Sicilian Franciscan friar who is venerated as a saint in the Catholic church. Born of enslaved Africans in San Fratello, he was freed at birth and became known for his charity. As a young man he joined a Franciscan-affiliated hermit group, of which he became the leader. In 1564 he was sent to the Franciscan friary in Palermo, where he continued good works. Benedict was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1743 and canonized in 1807 by Pope Pius VII.

A Knight

João de Sá Panasco 

(1524–1567), was a black African in the employ of King John III of Portugal, who was eventually elevated from court jester to gentleman courtier of the Royal Household. In 1535, he accompanied the King's brother, Infante Luís, Duke of Beja, to northern Africa, where he was part of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's military campaign to conquer Tunis from the Ottomans. The important victory over the Turks made the King of Portugal award João de Sá exceptional honours: he was admitted to the prestigious Order of Saint James.

An Artist

Juan de Pareja

 (1607-1670) was a Spanish painter, born into slavery in Antequera, near MálagaSpain. He is known primarily as a member of the household and workshop of painter Diego Velázquez, who freed him in 1650. His 1661 work The Calling of Saint Matthew is on display at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain.

A Professor

Juan Latino

or Juan de Sesa (1518-15996) was an Afro-Hispanic poet in Renaissance Spain who taught at the Cathedral school in Granada and became famous for his epic Latin poems. He and his mother were slaves in the house of Doña Elvira, the daughter of Fernándo de Córdoba, the famous Spanish war hero.

A Diplomat

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Antonio Emanuele Ne Vunda

(died 1608), also Antonio Manuel Nsaku ne Vunda (or Vunta or Funda) was an ambassador from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo to the Vatican, sent by the king of Kongo Alvaro II to Pope Paul V in 1604–1608. Ne Vunda traveled through Brazil and Spain and only reached Rome on 3 January 1608.

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