Nadia Altschul: Saracens and Race in Roman de la Rose Iconography

Join us in Glasgow for the Association of Art Historian’s 36th annual conference, from the 15th to the 17th of April, 2010. On Saturday 17th, Postcolonising the Medieval Image will be convening Medieval Art/Postcolonial Questions, including the following paper:

Nadia R. Altschul (The Johns Hopkins University)

Saracens and Race in Roman de la Rose Iconography: The Case of Dangier in MS Douce 195

Scholars of race have traditionally established that premodernity lacked a conception of race until the colonization of the Americas. This presentation on Saracens and race in Roman de la Rose iconography focuses in the character of Dangier, described textually as large, hideous, black, with bristly hair, and red eyes. I will discuss the racialized portrayals found in Bodleian Library MS Douce 195, illuminated by Robinet Testard for the house of Charles d’Orléans and Louise de Savoie between 1488 and 1494. I will argue that the Middle Ages had recourse to racial difference before the conquest of the Americas, and that the orientalization of depictions in manuscripts like Douce195–mostly studied through costume–is also found in portrayals of skin pigmentation.