The Image of the Black in Western Art

The numerous contacts that Greeks, Romans and other Europeans had with people of African origin have been portrayed in art for thousands of years. The objective of "The Image of the Black in Western Art," says Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and editor-in-chief of The Root, is to capture and catalog that interaction for all of us to enjoy. Four of 10 projected volumes (co-edited with David Bindman) are now available at and other booksellers.

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  • Nubian Warriors

    Detail of a troop of Nubian archers from Asyut, tomb of Prince Mesehty, Dynasty XI or XII, circa 2000 B.C. Model in painted wood. Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

    Four volumes of The Image of the Black in Western Art are available at
    Vol. 1
    Vol. 2, Part 1
    Vol. 2, Part 2
    Vol. 3, Part 1
    Vol. 3, Part 2 (can be ordered in advance)


    Captions from The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Statuette of a Young Musician

    This detail is from an eight-inch-high bronze statue found in 1763 in Chalon-sur-Saône (France). It is from the Hellenistic period. Bibliothèque nationale, Paris.

  • St. Maurice (Polyptych)

    Detail of a painted panel from the outer right-hand wing of a polyptych. From Wiener Neustadt Abbey, 1447. Stefansdom, Vienna.

  • Adoration of the Magi (Triptych)

    Detail of Adoration of the Magi triptych. By Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1490-1510. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

  • Astrological Symbol for the Stone Almagnitaz

    Detail from Lapidario of Alfonso X the Wise, fol. 97v. 13th century. Image 12 of 32. Real Monasterio, Biblioteca, Escorial, Spain.

  • Libyan Sibyl

    The prophetic priestess of the Zeus Ammon Oracle in the Libyan desert. Pavement (detail). By Guidoccio Cozzarelli, 1483. Left nave, Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Siena, Italy.

  • Portrait of Juan de Pareja

    Portrait of Juan de Pareja. By Diego Velázquez, 1650. Pareja was a slave, then a freedman and an assistant to Velázquez, as well as a painter in his own right. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

  • Theagenes Wrestling the Ethiopian Giant

    Theagenes Wrestling the Ethiopian Giant. By Karel van Mander III, circa 1640. Gemäldegalerie, Kassel, Germany.

  • Black King

    Detail of statue from the north portal of the cathedral in Strasbourg. By Jean d’Aix-la-Chapelle, 1497-1503. Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame, Strasbourg, France.

  • Adoration of the Magi

    Central panel from an altarpiece. By Andrea Mantegna, circa 1466. The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

  • Reclining Negress

    Reclining Negress. By Rembrandt van Rijn, 1658. Leeds Museums and Galleries, U.K.

  • Portrait of a Black Boy

    Formerly attributed to Christopher Wren, 1680s. British Museum, London.

  • Queen of Sheba

    Conrad Kyeser, Bellifortis. Bohemia, before 1405. Parchment. 140 fols., 320 by 240 mm. Cod. philos. 63, fol. 122r. Niedersächsische Staats-und Universitätsbibliothek, Göttingen, Germany. Hickey & Robertson, the Menil Foundation, Houston.

  • St. Maurice

    Painted panel, 114 by 90 cm. By Master Theodoric, before 1367. Karlštejn Castle, Chapel of the Holy Cross, east wall of the choir, right side of the lower register. Ladislav Neubert, Prague, Czech Republic.

    Four volumes of The Image of the Black in Western Art are now available at
    Vol. 1
    Vol. 2, Part 1
    Vol. 2, Part 2
    Vol. 3, Part 1
    Vol. 3, Part 2 (advance order)