This video shows the relationship between the canvas of the mulattoes of Adrian Sanchez Galque Esmeraldas, which is exposed at the Museum of America and the court portrait painting of the late sixteenth century by artists like Sánchez Coello. In this case following the same model as the portrait of Prince Don Sebastian of Portugal. If you want to know more details, you can see the publication of Annals of the Museum of America, 2012, in the article by Andres Gutierrez Usillos
Who is the pale face gentlemen in the painting? The answer is Prince Don Sebastian of Portugal.
Dom Sebastian I (Portuguese: Sebastião I Portuguese pronunciation: [sɨbɐʃˈti.ɐ̃w̃]; 20 January 1554 – 4 August 1578) wasKing of Portugal and the Algarves from 11 June 1557 to 4 August 1578 and the penultimate Portuguese monarch of theHouse of Aviz.
He was the son of John Manuel, Prince of Portugal, and his wife, Joanna of Austria. He was the grandson of King John III of Portugal and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He disappeared (was presumably killed in action) in the battle of Alcácer Quibir. Sebastian I is often referred to as The Desired (Portuguese: o Desejado), for the Portuguese people longed for his return, to end the decline of Portugal that had occurred because of his death
After attaining his majority in 1568, Sebastian dreamed of a great crusade against the kingdom of Morocco, where over the preceding generation several Portuguese way stations on the route to India had been lost.A Moroccan succession struggle gave him the opportunity, when Abu Abdallah Mohammed II Saadi lost his throne in 1576 and fled to Portugal, where he asked for King Sebastian’s help in defeating his Turkish-backed uncle and rival, Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik I Saadi.
Sebastian met during the Christmastide of 1577 with his uncle, Philip II of Spain, at Guadalupe in Spain. Philip refused to be party to the crusade as he was negotiating a truce with the Turks, though he promised a contingent of Spanish volunteers.
Despite having no son and heir, King Sebastian in 1578 embarked on his crusade. The Portuguese army of 17,000 men, including a significant number of foreign mercenaries (hired from the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands, Spain, and the Italian States), and almost all of the country’s nobility, sailed at the beginning of June from Lisbon, visited Cadiz, where they expected to find the Spanish volunteers, who failed to appear, then crossed into Morocco.
Death in battle
At Arzila, Sebastian joined his ally Abu Abdullah Mohammed II, who had around 6,000 Moorish soldiers and, against the advice of his commanders, marched into the interior. At the Battle of Alcácer Quibir (Battle of the Three Kings), the Portuguese army was routed by Abd Al-Malik at the head of more than 60,000 men.
Sebastian was almost certainly killed in battle. He was last seen riding headlong into the enemy lines. Whether his body was ever found is uncertain, but Philip II of Spain claimed to have received his remains from Morocco and buried them in the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisbon, after he ascended to the Portuguese throne in 1580, but the body could not be identified as Sebastian, which left some people unconvinced of his death. Sebastian was succeeded as king by his great-uncle Henry, brother of his grandfather, King John III. Sebastian of Portugal wikipedia.org
We became curious about the story behind the painting and the subsequent history of those Africans who continue at that placed called Esmeralda, Ecuador more than 400 years after the painting was commissioned.
We were not surprised that this painting may be located in Madrid. In 1599, the history of Madrid was not far removed from a time when the area was under complete ruler of the Moors. The Moors migrated from Northern Africa and settled the current city we call Madrid today. In fact, the historical record indicates that forts and a wall were built by the Moor around Madrid as early as 865 A.D. Before the city fell under Castillian rule in 1083, under leadership of Alfonso VI of Castile, the city was called Magerit by the Moors. From 1083, the time of Castillian rule, to 1599, the date the painting was created –was 516 years.
From 1599 to 2015 is 416 years — both periods being relatively short historical time spans. This is illustrated only to provide the reader a historical perspective. In 1544, Ecuador was reportedly under Spain’s colonial rule. By 1564, Ecuador was dealing directly with Madrid.
Who are these three men in the painting? The historical accounts indicate the center figure is Don Francisco (de) Arobe. The other two men are his sons, Don Domingo, at the right, and Don Pedro, at the left. Each man holds a spears and wears an elaborate combination of Native American (indigenous) and Ibero-Spanish inspired clothing. On the actual painting, each man is identified by the title Don, a sign of respect in Latin-Hispanic culture at the time.
It is evident from the gold jewelry and the title as Dons that the men were of high standing in the Esmeralda of 1599. The painting’s inscription states as follows: “Doctor Juan del Barrio de Sepulveda, judge of the Real Audiencia of Quito, commissioned and paint for the painting, to your Majesty Phillip, Catholic King of Spain and the Indies in the year of 1599.”
The three men are also described by the painter as mulatos. This description may have been more of a reflection of the caste hierarchy distinction that existed in South America after the Europeans arrived, which created status based on the amount of European heritage held by an individual. Upon review of this painting, an argument can be made that a more appropriate title for these men would have been the Spanish term for Afro-Indian men, zambos, or for African men, negro.
Like the Spanish word negro, which mean black, the Spanish word zambos would creep into the Euro-English lexicon as “sambos.” Unfortunately, the Anglo-European cultural baggage who translate the word into a negative connotation for people of African descent. But as we can see from this 1770 painting, zambos represented a further racial classification among the Europeans.
For background information on this painting and the history of these men, the Minority Rights Group offers the following, in its work No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today: “Regional blackness as a force of self-liberation in Ecuador begins in Esmeraldas, and its origin occurs during a violent tropical storm and a movement of African rebellion. The documented history of Ecuador establishes the beginnings of Afro-Hispanic culture in what is now Esmeraldas, Ecuador, where a Spanish slaving ship ran aground in 1553. There a group of twenty-three Africans from the coast of Guinea, led by a black warrior named Antón, attacked the slavers and liberated themselves. Not long after, this group, together with other blacks entering the region, led by a ladino (Hispanicized black person) named Alonso de Illescas, came to dominate the region from northern Manabí north to what is now Barbacoas, Colombia. At this time (late sixteenth century) intermixture with indigenous peoples, to whom black people fled to establish their palenques (villages of self-liberated people – some fortified, some not), was such that their features were described as zambo (black-indigenous admixture), synonyms of which were negro (black) and mulato (mixed or hybrid black-white). ……
By 1599 black people were clearly in charge of what was called “La República de Zambos” or “Zambo Republic”. Zambo refers to people of colour who are descendants of Native Americans and African-Americans. In that year a group of Zambo chieftains, said to represent 100,000 or more Zambo people of Esmeraldas, trekked to Quito to declare loyalty to Spain. An oil painting of these chiefs from the emerald land of the Zambo Republic is portrayed by the “Indian artist” Adrián Sánchez Galgue [sic]; it is reportedly the earliest signed and dated painting from South America.”