Colloquium in Visual Culture with Dr. Mia Bagneris
Dr. Mia Bagneris, associate professor, Art History and Africana Studies, Tulane University, presents "Imagining the Oriental South: The Enslaved Mixed-Race Beauty in British Art and Visual Culture, c. 1865-1880."
Using works like John Bell’s Octoroon (1868) and Robert Gavin’s Quadroon Girl (ca. 1872) as case studies, this talk explores Britons’ pronounced and continued fascination with the figure of the enslaved American mixed-race beauty—even and especially after the abolition of slavery in the United States rendered the potential of such figures as tools for abolitionist suasion obsolete. I analyze marked visual and rhetorical echoes between representations of the so-called “tragic” mulatto, quadroon, or octoroon and concurrent expressions of Orientalism. Ultimately, I argue that, against the upright image of Victorian England, the American South—and especially Catholic Louisiana—could be imagined as a place of luxury, debauchery, and desire, a perfect echo to the “Orient” in the British popular imagination and one made stronger by the perceived association of both regions with the traffic in pretty women as “sex slaves.”
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