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1650 - Juan de Pareja

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Art Credit: "El Morisco De Velazquez”

Anuar Khalifi (1977) - Contemporary Moroccan artist

This is a beautiful likeness of the famous painting, “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” (1650) by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez. It is the earliest known portrait of a Spanish man of African descent. The portrait of Pareja was said to be indistinguishable from the man himself.

Juan de Pareja (circa 1606 – 1670), who was a notable painter in his own right, had been enslaved since birth and was not manumitted by Velázquez until 1654. According to legend, it was only after his own work was seen by King Phillip IV of Spain, who declared that Pareja’s mastery of the arts was too great for a man enslaved, that he was granted his freedom.

The recent portrait of Juan de Pareja by contemporary artist Anuar Khalifi refers to Juan as “El Morisco”. A “Morisco” is a mixed race former Muslim or Spanish Moor who had converted to Catholicism and in some cases continued to practice Islam in secrecy.

See below for the original painting which is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The eyes of Juan de Pareja in his stunning portrait reflect a quiet dignity and intensity.


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