Romani Studies

Painting the other within: Gypsies according to the Bohemian artist in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Romani Studies (2010), 20, (2), 161–201.

Abstract

The article examines European paintings, photographs, prints, popular culture, maps, and anthropological drawings of Gypsies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I focus on three paintings: French realist Gustave Courbet's Charity of a Beggar at Ornans (1868), British Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti's The Beloved (1865–6), and Expressionist Otto Müller's Gypsy Encampment (1925). I seek to problematize the concept of Gypsy identity in these images as a stable, homogeneous "Other" category that is clearly separate from the white population, by pointing out a variety of interpretations for the artist and his audience. Contrary to traditional Orientalist scholarship that views images of "Others" as strengthening and defining white identity while denying agency to the depicted subject, this essay argues the more nuanced view that these images endow the Gypsy with a certain level of agency and demonstrate a less stable conception of white power.

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Dearing, Stewart