ARTES is delighted to announce the winners of the 2022 Juan Facundo Riaño Essay Prize. With exceptionally strong submissions, this year we awarded the prize plus two runner-ups!
Winner of the 2022 Juan Facundo Riaño Prize 2022: Patricia Manzano Rodríguez, PhD candidate, University of Durham
The Upper half of Las Meninas
Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656) is one of the most iconic artworks in the Western world, and the literature on the painting is extensive. However, it was not until 1943 that the paintings depicted in the background were identified as copies by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo after Rubens’s Pallas and Arachne and Jordaen’s The Judgement of Midas for the Torre de la Parada. This essay offers a new interpretation of the presence of Mazo’s copies in Las Meninas. It will be argued that the copies were included to promote Velázquez’s art and—as an extension—his atelier, in particular Mazo as his son-in-law.
Joint runner-up: Mónica Lindsay-Pérez, PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh
Racism (or Anti-Racism?) in El negro que tenía el alma blanca?
El negro que tenía el alma blanca (“The black man with the white soul”) was a silent black and- white film produced in 1927 by the director Benito Perojo (1894-1974). It was an adaptation of the 1922 novel of the same name by Alberto Insúa (1883-1963), which told the story of a black, Cuban-born dancer, Peter Wald, who falls in love with his white Spanish dance partner, Emma. Due to her unshakeable racism, Emma cannot bring herself to reciprocate Peter’s feelings. The little scholarship that exists on this film has generated debate. Some scholars, such as Jo Labanyi, have asked whether Perojo was trying to expose the fictitiousness of race, making a subversive criticism of contemporary race relations in Spain. Others, such as Eva Woods Peiró, have labelled the film “shockingly racist”. This essay presents the first scholarly dissection of this debate. In order to get closer to the intention of the director, it enacts a thorough comparison of the original novel and the film adaptation. It thus exposes what is lost and what is gained when text is transformed into image; when literature becomes visual culture. But, more than that, it ultimately reveals the thin line between stories that criticise racism and stories that entrench it.
Joint runner-up: Laura Feigen, PhD candidate, Courtauld Institute of Art
Meeting in the Margins of the Barcelona Haggadah: Marginalia as a Nexus for Ritual Tradition and Interreligious Tensions in Fourteenth-Century Catalonia
Crawling through the margins of the Barcelona Haggadah (British Library Add MS 14761) is a menagerie of animal, human, and hybrid drolleries whose open mouths and riotous actions interrupt and act out the liturgical text. While such drolleries are taken seriously as allegories or social criticism in medieval Christian art, they are usually dismissed by scholars of Jewish art as mere decoration or appropriations of Christian motifs. Though the marginal motifs in the Barcelona Haggadah do derive from the Christian pictorial tradition, the intimate dialectic they share with the text and central miniatures reflects a specifically Jewish understanding of the Passover narrative in which they are situated. Given the increase in Jewish persecution and interreligious tensions in fourteenth-century Catalonia, the marginalia’s liminal position between Jewish and Christian cultures prompts critical questions regarding their interpretation at the seder table and their function within the Barcelona Haggadah. Bringing to the fore four marginal motifs as yet unexamined in relation to the Barcelona Haggadah—the ape, hunter, knight, and goblet—this paper explores the marginalia as a nexus for Jewish ritual traditions and interreligious tensions between Jews and Christians in fourteenth-century Catalonia. In doing so, this paper presents a fresh method for examining Hebrew marginalia, arguing that they are multivalent, interreligious symbols that poignantly reflect the religious and socio-political landscape shaping the Jewish experience in this period.