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Afro-Hispanic Painter Juan de Pareja

June 11 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT

The Baton Foundation will host a lecture about Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter. This program is free to the public, but registration is required.

About the Program

Co-curator, Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, will talk about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit on the life and work of artist Juan de Pareja.

Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter offers an unprecedented look at the life and artistic achievements of Juan de Pareja (ca. 1608–1670). Largely known today as the subject of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s iconic portrait by Diego Velázquez, Pareja was enslaved in Velázquez’s studio for more than two decades before becoming an artist in his own right. Currently on view through July 16, 2023, this exhibition is the first to tell his story and examine the ways in which enslaved artisanal labor and a multiracial society are inextricably linked with the art and material culture of Spain’s so-called Golden Age. The exhibit brings together approximately 40 paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts objects, as well as an array of books and historic documents, from The Met’s holdings and other collections in the United States and Europe.

Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met., says, “This exhibition takes us to the very heart of 17th-century Spanish painting to reveal Juan de Pareja’s incredible personal story. By reexamining the narrative around one of the most celebrated works in the history of western portraiture, the presentation challenges us to question existing notions about historical art and objects—and introduces a remarkable artist whose name may be familiar to many but whose work had not been explored in depth.”

About Juan de Pareja

Juan de Pareja was born around 1608 in Antequera, Spain–probably to an enslaved woman of African descent and a white Spaniard. Although no known documents from Pareja’s lifetime speculate on his family origins or skin color, ample evidence from seventeenth-century Spain provides the context of a highly multiracial society in which enslaved labor was widespread. Pareja is first mentioned in Madrid in 1634 as part of the circle of artist Diego Velázquez, who was then establishing himself as the foremost painter at the Spanish court. Between 1649 and 1650, the pair traveled to Italy, where Velázquez painted Pareja’s portrait and signed legal papers releasing him from slavery. Once back in Madrid, Pareja built a successful career as an independent artist.

About the Co-Curator

Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés is the Associate Provost for Community Engagement at The City College of New York and, as such, she engages with community leaders on issues and programs of mutual interest and benefit to the College, and provides vision, direction, coordination and leadership for campus-community partnerships and programs that originate from or are administered by the Provost’s Office. Professor Valdés is the former interim dean of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY (2021-2022) and the former director of the Black Studies Program (2019-2021). A graduate of Yale and Vanderbilt Universities, and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, her research interests focus on the cultural production of Black peoples throughout the Americas: the United States and Latin America, including Brazil, and the Caribbean. She is the editor of The Future Is Now: A New Look at African Diaspora Studies (2012); Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora (2012); and Racialized Visions: Haiti and the Hispanic Caribbean (2020). Dr. Valdés is the author of Oshun’s Daughters: The Search for Womanhood in the Americas (2014) and Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (2017). Her latest book is Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter in the Age of Velázquez (2023), co-authored with David Pullins.

Register Here for Zoom Lecture


June 11
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EDT
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