Early medieval legends reported that one of the three kings who paid homage to the newborn Christ Child in Bethlehem was from Africa. But it would be nearly one thousand years before artists began representing Balthazar, the youngest of the magi, as a black African. This exhibition explores the juxtaposition of a seemingly positive image with the difficult histories of Afro-European contact—in particular the brutal African slave trade—which informed European artists’ interest in representing race.
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