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His Name Was Bélizaire

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Il Met ha acquisito “Bélizaire and the Frey Children”, un ritratto ambientato in Louisiana nel 19 ° secolo, la cui storia nascondeva un segreto.


Per oltre 100 anni, l’immagine di un bambino schiavo che era parte integrante dell’opera è rimasta coperta.

Qui l’articolo del New York Times e il video nel quale viene raccontata la storia di questo dipinto e di Bélizaire.

He was born in 1822 in the French Quarter. His mother was named Sallie. His father is unknown. Bélizaire had other brothers and sisters — all but one were sold away. When he was six, Bélizaire and his mother were sold to Frederick Frey, a banker and merchant who, with his wife, Coralie, and their family, lived in a large French Quarter home on Royal Street, and owned a number of enslaved people. Bélizaire is listed as a domestic and his mother as a cook, roles that would have kept them in proximity to the family. Records suggest the portrait was painted around 1837, when Bélizaire was 15. He was the only person in the painting to survive to adulthood. Two Frey sisters, Elizabeth and Léontine, died the same year, likely of yellow fever. Their brother Frederick died a few years later.

Anche Sara Cascone sulle pagine di ArtNet spiega come il dipinto sia ritenuto opera del pittore neoclassico francese Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans, che lavorò a New Orleans dalla fine del 1830 al 1850.

The Frey portrait shows a surprising intimacy between the four children, suggesting that Bélizaire was a valued member of the household, despite his enslaved status. But at some point around the turn of the century, someone painted over Bélizaire, not only erasing him from the Frey family history, but obscuring a rare example from the era of a realistic portrait of an enslaved person.

The canvas, titled Bélizaire and the Frey Children, dates to about 1837, when it was commissioned by Frederick Frey, a German-born banker and merchant who lived in the French Quarter with his wife, Coralie D’Aunoy Frey, and their family. It depicts three of the couple’s children—Elizabeth, Léontine, and Frederick Jr.—and an enslaved teenager named Bélizaire.

Uncovering Bélizaire’s identity was a passion project spearheaded by Louisiana art collector Jeremy K. Simien, who turned to art history as a means of better understanding of his own family origins as a ninth-generation Creole of mixed African and European descent. He first saw a photo of the painting in 2013, in an old auction lot attributing the work to either Trevor Thomas Fowler or Theodore Sydney Moise. He was eventually able to track the canvas down thanks to an Instagram tip from art dealer Taylor Thistlethwaite.

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