Lecture

Urte Krass: The Big Empty: A New Interpretation of Velazquez’s So-Called La Mulata

Diego Velázquez, Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus (La mulata), detail, ca. 1620–1622, oil on canvas, 55 x 104.5 cm, Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland.

Velázquez's painting featuring a black kitchen maid standing among pots, plates, and pitchers is famously infused with ambiguity. The figure and her surroundings, which include an image-in-the-image of the Supper at Emmaus, visually and thematically interweave with one another in multiple ways that set up a series of subtle and elusive pictorial dialogues. The bodegón curiously appears to turn the Emmaus scene inside-out, emptying the biblical table in a contemporary setting. This paper interrogates these ambiguities, focusing on the painting's protagonist, the so-called mulata. It proposes a new interpretation of the work by delving into the identity of the maid and the insistent emptiness of her kitchen vessels within the specific context of the ongoing Spanish inquisition.

Urte Krass is Professor of Early Modern Art at the Institute for Art History at the University of Bern. She studied art history and history at the University of Hamburg, where she completed her dissertation in 2009 on quattrocento Italian representations of saints and the pictorial paradigm of the physical (and conceptual) impression. Krass developed her doctoral work at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, where she received a doctoral scholarship for her research. She then taught at the LMU in Munich, where she wrote her habilitation, completed in 2019. The latter addresses the global visualization of empire in the context of the seventeenth-century Portuguese Restoration.

This talk is part of the KHI 2021+ Lecture Series, organized by the doctoral and postdoctoral fellows, in collaboration with scientific staff and senior scholars of the Institute. It is envisioned as a forum to reflect on the futures of Art History through conversations with innovative voices in the discipline, working in different areas but sharing methodological concerns.

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29 January 2021, 3:00pm

KHI 2021+ Lecture Series
The event takes place online.

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