Alternative museum tours explore colonial loot, biased narratives:
London, England – “The
South Sea Company did not trade in fish,” says Alice Procter, as she
shows visitors around Queen’s House, a maritime museum in Greenwich,
southeast London. “They traded in something far more valuable to the
English monarchy – slaves.”
The 23-year-old Australian art historian
is behind the “Uncomfortable Art Tours”, a series of museum visits in
the capital exploring history with a twist.
She focuses on what she describes as
racist narratives and an ideology that underpins the objects displayed
in European exhibitions from the colonial period, which isn’t always
Statue of a bull (possibly from the Kerameikos, the most prestigious cemetery of Athens), circa 430 BC, source
Pierre-François-Grégoire Giraud, A Dog, 1827, Musée du Louvre, source
William Williams (1727–1791), Portrait of a Boy with a Dog, circa 1770–75, Metropolitan Museum, New York
Edgar Degas, La Place de la Concorde, 1875, Hermitage museum, 78,4 × 117,5 cm, Saint Petersburg, source
John Everett Millais, The Black Brunswicker, detail, 1860, oil on canvas, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside
This painting was inspired by the Black Brunswickers, a German volunteer corps of the Napoleonic Wars. Millais reduced the presence of Napoleon to an engraving after Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps, in the top left of the painting.
Millais depicts a soldier about to depart for battle. His sweetheart, wearing a ballgown, restrains him, trying to push the door closed. In fact, the composition revolves around the contrast of the man’s black broadcloth uniform and the woman’s pearl-white satin dress in a moment of tender conflict.
In a letter to his wife, Effie Gray, Millais described his inspiration for the work: “My subject is connected with the Brunswick Cavalry at Waterloo…They were nearly annihilated but performed prodigies of valor… The costume and incident are so powerful that I am astonished it has never been touched upon before.”
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Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686 – 1755), Parakeet, detail, oil on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Strasbourg
Henri Lebert (1794 – 1860), Hunting in the Vosges Mountains, detail, 1828, Museum of Fine Arts, Strasbourg
Alexis Jeaneau, said Mérodack-Jeaneau (1873 – 1919), Museum of Fine Arts, Angers