Connect with us

Arts & Culture

The Meaning Behind The Classical Paintings In Beyoncé And Jay-Z’s “Apes**t”

Published

on

“I can’t believe we made it,” sings Beyoncé in “Apes**t,” the first single from her surprise joint album with Jay-Z, Everything Is Love. And to prove that she and her husband have made it, in the song’s accompanying video, Beyoncé delivers this line from the Louvre.

As the New York Times has pointed out, it is not actually that expensive to shoot a video in the Louvre (about $17,500 for a full day’s shoot). But music videos aren’t about numbers; they’re about how things feel — and there’s no place on earth that feels as lavish, as rich with accumulated cultural power and wealth and colonialism, as the Louvre. If you want to show that you have made it, that you are rich and powerful and one of the greatest artists of your generation, you go to the Louvre.

And as an artistic choice, the Louvre is par for Beyoncé’s course. For the past few years, Beyoncé has increasingly cribbed from the iconography of classical Western art in her own image-making. Her pregnancy announcement photo shoot and her birth announcement photo shoot both referenced Botticelli’s Venus and the Renaissance trope of the Madonna and child, and her 2017 Grammys performance drew on goddess imagery from multiple artistic traditions.

So when Beyoncé shoots at the Louvre — taking on by turns the poses of Venus de Milo and Victory — she’s continuing an artistic project of recontextualizing classical Western art, of making herself the aesthetic object on which so much wealth and cultural capital has been spent. And coming from a black woman, that’s a radical statement.

“In a way, Beyoncé is exploiting/marketing her blackness as creativity — as a kind of weapon — within and against the very Eurocentric system of culture and consumption from which she has benefited,” says James Smalls, a professor of art history at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

That’s an especially radical statement to make in the context of the Louvre, where little of the art features people of color in positions of strength and power. “From the Middle Ages up to the 19th century, works of art that showed black people usually represented them as servants or secondary figures,” explains Smalls. “They were not deemed worthy subjects of paintings, sculptures, or other kinds of cultural works.”

One of the few exceptions to that trend is Marie Benoist’s “Portrait d’une négresse,” also displayed at the Louvre. “That painting is an anomaly because it presents a black person as the sole aestheticized subject and object of a work of art,” Smalls says. And it’s the painting that appears at the end of the “Apeshit” video, after shot after shot of portraits of white people.

Benoist painted “Portrait” in 1800, during a brief period in which France had abolished colonial slavery. (In 1794, the French emancipation proclamation liberated the colonies; in 1802, Napoleon reinstated slavery.) In that six-year span, portraits of heroic black people became popular in France, and that created an opportunity for an image of a black woman who is not tending to or subordinate to a white person, who is instead considered worthy of being at the center of her own portrait.

As Smalls has pointed out, in its full context, “Portrait” is not a wildly politically subversive image. It’s most likely that the unknown and unnamed subject was a servant with few legal rights who had little choice about how she posed or whether she was okay with her breast being exposed to the world for the next 200 years. Benoist the painter has much more agency here than the black woman at the center of the picture.

But in the context of “Apeshit,” with its montages of painting after painting of white faces and white statues, “Portrait” feels both shocking and subversive. It’s a black face in the center of the frame, apparently in control of her domain. And it’s one of the only figures in the Louvre that we don’t see get reinterpreted by either the Carters or their dancers: The only figure in the Louvre that can withstand the unstoppable force that is Beyoncé, that does not need to be remade and reexamined.

Part of Beyoncé’s project over the past few years has been to treat art as a form of power: It is a form of focused aesthetic attention, of social capital, and of wealth given solid form. Taking over the Louvre means taking all that power for herself and for the black bodies she brings in with her — except for the “Portrait.” In “Apeshit,” it can stand on its own.

By: Vox

Continue Reading
Advertisement
30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. generic cialis best deal
    prednisone for dogs cost
    sildenafil sale australia Smema Unump

  2. Atoz.amazon.work login

    March 21, 2021 at 6:35 am

    Great blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Cheers!

  3. Atoz.amazon.work employee login

    March 21, 2021 at 10:45 am

    I precisely wished to say thanks yet again. I do not know the things that I would’ve tried in the absence of the type of aspects shown by you about that situation. It truly was a real terrifying circumstance in my view, nevertheless noticing a well-written style you managed it made me to leap with joy. I’m just grateful for this work and as well , pray you comprehend what a powerful job that you’re doing instructing many others with the aid of your web blog. I am sure you’ve never encountered all of us.

  4. LmoppSpeme

    March 22, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    [url=http://essaywriteris.com/]best essay[/url] top essay writers magic essay writer essay writers toronto

  5. JvqqSpeme

    March 22, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    [url=https://dissertationahelp.com/]dissertation writing jobs[/url] phd dissertation proposal dissertation help law dissertation

  6. AbgcSpeme

    March 23, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    [url=https://thesiswritingtob.com/]phd degree[/url] writing your thesis mba thesis phd thesis writing

  7. jerrysproductreviews blogspot

    March 24, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    I am glad for commenting to let you know of the wonderful experience my wife’s girl gained browsing your blog. She even learned such a lot of things, most notably what it is like to have an amazing giving character to make many others just master a number of complex topics. You actually did more than our desires. Thanks for rendering the practical, trusted, explanatory and unique guidance on your topic to Gloria.

  8. jerrys product reviews blogspot

    March 26, 2021 at 9:25 am

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any ways to help prevent content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  9. Grvviams

    March 26, 2021 at 11:05 am

    [url=https://kloviagrli.com/]woman takes viagra[/url] [url=https://vigedon.com/]viagra expiration[/url] [url=https://llecialisjaw.com/]generic name for cialis[/url] [url=https://jwcialislrt.com/]when will cialis become generic[/url] [url=https://jecialisbn.com/]cialis buy[/url]

  10. AbgcSpeme

    March 26, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    [url=https://thesiswritingtob.com/]writing a good thesis[/url] writing a good thesis best thesis doctoral thesis help

  11. get more gardening food

    March 26, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    Very nice info and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is truly the best place to ask but do you people have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thanks in advance 🙂

  12. cipla tadalafil 20mg

    March 27, 2021 at 11:23 am

    cipla tadalafil 20mg http://edbuy.online/

  13. https://mydocvi.com/

    March 27, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    prescription sildenafil
    types of viagra
    cialis coupons kroger Smema Unump

  14. Children's educational videos dig this

    April 2, 2021 at 3:27 am

    When I initially commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get four emails with the identical comment. Is there any approach you’ll be able to remove me from that service? Thanks!

  15. www.statepikemassager.mystrikingly.com

    April 2, 2021 at 5:38 am

    Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon. Kudos

  16. statepikemassager.mystrikingly

    April 2, 2021 at 8:28 am

    My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome blog!

  17. 우리카지노

    April 2, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Excellent, what a website it is! This webpage provides valuable facts to us, keep it up.|

  18. Iíve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or blog posts on this kind of area . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this information So i am happy to convey that I’ve a very good uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed. I most certainly will make sure to donít forget this website and give it a glance regularly.

  19. CTR Manipulation SEO

    April 10, 2021 at 1:29 am

    hey there and thank you for your information – I’ve definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise several technical issues using this website, since I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect your placement in google and could damage your quality score if ads and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my email and can look out for much more of your respective exciting content. Make sure you update this again very soon..

  20. buy prednisone 10mg online

    April 10, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    nizoral anti dandruff shampoo buy india
    buy prednisone 5mg online uk
    donde comprar levitra en mexico df Smema Unump

  21. article touch-point cleaning

    April 11, 2021 at 4:08 am

    I truly appreciate this post. I’ve been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thanks again

  22. graphic design why not try this out

    April 13, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    I think this is one of the most significant info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  23. Luxury Chocolate Gift in Canada

    April 15, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Hello, this weekend is fastidious in support of me, for the reason that this occasion i am reading this wonderful informative post here at my house.|

  24. Patio Furniture

    April 16, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Very useful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.|

  25. farmacia senza ricetta

    April 18, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I to find It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to provide one thing back and aid others like you aided me.|

  26. Hormone therapy Dubai

    April 19, 2021 at 12:14 am

    I got this web page from my pal who informed me about this website and now this time I am visiting this web site and reading very informative articles or reviews here.|

  27. iv drip dubai

    April 19, 2021 at 1:34 pm

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Ie. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the problem fixed soon. Thanks|

  28. best CBD oil

    April 19, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks in support of sharing such a nice thought, piece of writing is pleasant, thats why i have read it entirely|

  29. slot-online999

    April 20, 2021 at 4:29 am

    Fantastic beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web
    site, how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account helped
    me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your
    broadcast offered bright clear concept

  30. Rainbow six siege esp

    April 20, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this site on a regular basis, this site is genuinely pleasant and the visitors are really sharing pleasant thoughts.|

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.