The Antecedents drawings are based on "blackamoor" jewelry, specifically Black cameo habillés. These elaborately adorned cameos of Black men and women were worn for three centuries by members of the European aristocracy as a signifier of wealth, conquest, and conspicuous luxury. Their subjects’ faces were modeled after the anonymous ideal of an elegantly outfitted slave or servant of an aristocratic household. Through the eyes of the Black ‘global citizen’ of the 21st century, blackamoor jewelry appears as a treasure to be rescued from both the figurative and literal piracy of history’s injustices. Its meaning as a signifier continues to undergo transformation. By shifting the Black cameo habillé from an exoticised symbol of European wealth to a dignified portrait, Thomas’s drawings recover and reclaim the majesty of their subjects.
Graphite and conte pencil on paper
31 3/4 x 31 3/4 inches