Maybe Beyoncé's Album Cover Isn't Based on a White Man's Painting


John Collier, “Girl Godiva” (c. 1898) on the Herbert Artwork Gallery and Museum (by the use of Wikimedia Commons)

There's a time and position for artwork historians to deliver their experience to endure on fresh problems — like when TikToker and artwork historian Mary McGillivray mapped angles and visible geometry to debunk the Eurovision cocaine controversy. And there may be a time and position wherein tying the whole thing, then again weakly, to Western artwork historical past is a little of a stretch — and that point and position could also be right here and now, because the Web makes an attempt to attract a comparability between the duvet symbol of Beyoncé’s new album, Renaissance, and John Collier’s circa 1898 portray “Girl Godiva.”

Beyoncé printed her new album duvet on Instagram this week. (screenshot Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic by the use of Instagram)

Is fairly, the unconventional spirit and ethical energy channeled by way of Girl Godiva resonate with the lyrics of Beyoncé’s unmarried launched upfront of the album, “Smash My Soul.” Consistent with the mythical tale, the Eleventh-century gentlewoman rode bare throughout the Coventry market on a gamble along with her husband, who stated if she did so, he would scale back an oppressive tax on their other folks. In Beyoncé’s music, interpreted by way of some as an anti-capitalist anthem, the musician belts out, “And I simply hand over my process / I’m gonna to find new force / Rattling, they paintings me so rattling laborious / Paintings by way of 9, then off previous 5” ahead of repeating the refrain: “You received’t spoil my soul.”

However Collier’s explicit interpretation of the legend has no resemblance to the newly unveiled album duvet. The bearing of Girl Godiva in Collier’s portray is downcast and self-conscious, having not anything in not unusual with Beyoncé’s calm, confident, direct-to-camera stare. She turns out frankly unconcerned about the whole thing, as much as and together with your taxes.

It's essential to say the pictures are visually an identical, within the sense that they each characteristic a slightly bare lady on a horse. However even a cursory Web seek for “lady bare on a horse” unearths that Collier’s paintings isn't the one and even the most productive referent for the picture. If truth be told, Carlijn Jacobs — the photographer who shot the duvet artwork for Beyoncé — has invoked the trope ahead of. And others have pointed to Bianca Jagger’s memorable front on horseback to Studio 54 in 1977.

And one Twitter person additionally noticed that it isn't unusual for Beyoncé to seem using horses in footage and movies, a theme they described as an invocation of her Texan roots.

Since “Girl Godiva” isn't a Renaissance portray, there isn't even a tenuous connection to be made to the identify of Beyoncé’s album, Renaissance — and given Beyoncé’s particular dedication to Black feminism, a extra convincing reference will be the Harlem Renaissance, anyway. That didn’t prevent some other folks from proceeding to liken it to a factor a Western White painter did 100 years in the past — and it additionally didn’t prevent people on Twitter from mocking them for it.  

A tweet by way of person @Dai_Zaburo (screenshot Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic by the use of Twitter)

So far as what Queen Bey has to mention at the topic, the Instagram submit presenting the duvet as a teaser for the July 29 album drop says, “My goal used to be to create a secure position, a spot with out judgment. A spot to be freed from perfectionism and overthinking. A spot to scream, free up, really feel freedom.”

The true ethical this is that no longer the whole thing is ready Western artwork — as takes at the connection between imagery in Beyoncé’s 2016 visible album Lemonade and African artwork makes transparent. And with regards to Beyoncé, it’s reductionist to appear to a slender artwork ancient canon.