Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African American Women and Photography

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SAARTJIE BAARTMAN ILLUSTRATION

"Love and beauty–Sartjee the Hottentot Venus." Hand-colored etching, ca. 1811. Published by Christopher Crupper Rumford, 1811. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-USZ62-137332.

Prior to the birth of the daguerreotype, European and European American ethnographers produced sketches and drawings to illustrate the physiognomic differences of the darker races. These illustrations were far from faithful depictions of the people they encountered, and were often exaggerated in order to underscore the attributes they believed most validated their racist perceptions. Although Saartjie Baartman–who was nicknamed the Hottentot Venus when she became the first African woman to tour Europe as a scientific "oddity"–had a larger derriere than ever before seen by most Europeans, the racial biologists who "studied" her physique exaggerated its shape and size in their illustrations.

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