Isabel Baldrich, a second year PhD student in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European art, graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Art History and received her MA in Art History both from the University of Iowa. Her qualifying paper, “Black Skin, White Hands: Ambivalence in Girodet’s Portrait of Belley,” addresses the painter’s Portrait du C. Belley, ex-représentant des Colonies (1797) which has garnered both praise and contempt. The portrait has been interpreted either as a racist image or a depiction of issues about race and racism. However, the artwork does not fall on the ends of the black-and-white spectrum. The juxtapositions and contradictions found in the African-born representative of Saint Domingue at the National Convention promoted an ambivalence in a period of political upheaval in France and its most important Caribbean colony.
For her dissertation, she is currently immersing herself in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black portraiture, in French art, in an age of abolition, revolution, imperialism, and orientalism. Isabel is also revising her qualifying paper for publication.