Portrait of a Young African Diplomat

attributed to Gonzales Coques, Belgian, Flemish, 1614 - 1684

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about 1675

Oil on copper

Overall: 2 13/16 × 2 3/16 in. (7.2 × 5.5 cm)

Frame: 6 7/8 × 4 5/16 in. (17.5 × 11 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Jean and Adolph Weil Jr. 1935 Fund

2021.24

Geography

Place Made: Belgium, Europe

Period

1600-1800

Object Name

Painting

Research Area

European History

Painting

Not on view

Label

This miniature captures the likeness of a man of African descent residing in seventeenth-century Europe. Draped in aristocratic attire, the sitter, perhaps an ambassador to the Habsburg court based in Antwerp, showcases his elevated status and integration into the northern European courtly life. The artist’s careful brushwork brings life to the vibrant colors and sumptuous fabrics, while his subject’s contemplative gaze hints at wisdom and resilience. More than just a portrait, the diminutive size and use of oil on copper suggest the painting’s intended purpose as a privately exchanged gift, reflecting the level of interaction between African and European diplomats and elites. Its realistic depiction affirms the agency, presence, and dignity of individuals of African descent. By engaging in this tradition, the portrait materializes the ongoing exchange between African and European courts, capturing a moment of diplomatic dialogue.

Written by Alene Jin, ’25

From the 2023 exhibition Faith and Empire: The Legacy of Conversion and Commerce in the Early Modern World, curated by students of ARTH 20.04, "Faith and Empire: Art in the Early Modern World" taught by Elizabeth Rice Mattison, Andrew W. Mellon Associate Curator of Academic Programming

Course History

ARTH 28.01, The Global Renaissance, Elizabeth Kassler-Taub, Fall 2021

HIST 5.08/AAAS 19, Africa and the World, Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, Summer 2022

HIST 5.08/AAAS 19, Africa and the World, Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, Summer 2022

HIST 5.08/AAAS 19, Africa and the World, Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, Summer 2022

Writing Program 5.25, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Winter 2023

Writing Program 5.24, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Winter 2023

Art History 20.04, Faith and Empire, Beth Mattison, Spring 2023

History 10.02, Archival Research, M. Cecillia Gaposchkin, Summer 2023

Writing 5.24, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Fall 2023

Writing 5.25, Photographic Representations, Amanda Wetsel, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

Faith and Empire: The Legacy of Conversion and Commerce in the Early Modern World, Class of 1967 Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, August 12-December 23, 2023.

Provenance

Private collection, Spain; sold to Rafael Valls, London; sold to present collection, 2021.

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