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PAREJA

Reyes Lázaro





I am working on Juan de Pareja, a 17th century painter, a Black man, a slave of the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez, and the subject of a painting by the latter which became the most expensive portrait ever sold, for a number of years. The topic is enormously rich, both because of the richness of the character, and also because of the many facets of the "Pareja-question," such as:

Pareja-painter
Pareja-slave
Pareja-painter and slave of a painter (Velázquez)
Pareja-subject of a portrait by Velázquez
Pareja-subject of the most expensive portrait in world history.

In my paper I will examine one by one these facets, as well as the lack of knowledge and scholarship on this fascinating personality. I will also study a play by Spanish anti-Franco playwright Antonio Buero Vallejo, entitled _Las Meninas_. Appropriately, Buero Vallejo creates a mirror-play in which he presents Velázquez as an intellectual in times of repression of Philip IV. The play was obviously a game of mirrors to comment on Franco's Spain and the position of artists in it. Juan de Pareja plays an interesting role in _Las Meninas_ because he dismantles the perfect facade of Velázquez as the archetype of free intellectual that the play tries to construct. His character constantly challenges Velázquez's, in spite of the obvious idealization of Velázquez by Buero-Vallejo. Thus, the play_Las Meninas_ is a great example of the way in which the histories onf Black Europeans dismantle traditional historiographies (even traditional historiographies of dissent). Moreover this play, ultimately focused on Velázquez instead of on Pareja, also illustrates how the histories of black Europeans are submerged and screaming for articulation.

I am particularly interested in studying a theatrical portrayal of Pareja because my ultimate goal is to write a filmscript on Pareja, (modestly) following the call to engage film in historical research made by, among others, the wonderful historian Natalie Zemon Davies in her _Portrait of Martin Guerre_. As an academic, this would be an enormous challenge for me. The paper I would offer at the conference is the first step in that project; in this first step I will attempt to understand and frame Pareja in his times. The discussion with other scholars facilitated in this conference would be an invaluable tool to learn more of the larger European context, as well as to establish relevant networks.

My study on Pareja (the person and the portrait) and his insertion in the times he lived, namely, Spain as an empire in decay, addresses practically all of the questions indicated in tour description, but very particularly:


  • What is the relationship of categories like nation, gender, class, and racialization to the category Black Europe?

  • European unity and its expansion-European creation myths

  • (Self)Representation of Black Europeans as indigenous or "other"?

  • Black European self-articulation in political and other forms of representation

  • A Black European Research perspective: counter-history and/or academic discourse?


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