Portraying Difference in 18th-Century Brazil

An artist pays an ironic tribute to the occurrence of anomalies in human beings.

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From these considerations, a dual identity for Ciriaco emerges. On the one hand, he was an object of scientific inquiry; on the other, he was a symbol of wealth and political power. Both scientists and courtiers paid their own ironic tribute to him, not so much for his worth as a human being but for what he otherwise represented: a foreign body that could be possessed, prized and manipulated in the service of their own interests.

Fatefully, it would be this same court that fled to Brazil in advance of invading Napoleonic troops 20 years later. Whether or not Ciriaco was able to return to his homeland then is not recorded.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Archive resides at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. The director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute is Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is also The Root's editor-in-chief. The archive and Harvard University Press collaborated to create The Image of the Black in Western Art book series, eight volumes of which were edited by Gates and David Bindman and published by Harvard University Press. Text for each Image of the Week is written by Sheldon Cheek.

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