pastel on paper laid down on canvas
16 1/8 x 13 1/4 in. (40.96 x 33.66 cm)
Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund, 2021.7. Artwork in the public domain.
A label on the verso identifies this pastel as a portrait de fantaisie of a mulatto woman. Portraites de fantaisie were imaginative works depicting fictive sitters. In this example, pastellist Deschamps de la Talaire used idealized facial features and a light skin tone to render a biracial woman. Her African descent is emphasized through the inclusion of the headwrap, often worn by Black women throughout the African diaspora. Deschamps may have drawn inspiration from contemporary visual representations of biracial women or encountered biracial women during his trips through the Caribbean or in France. The ambiguity of the background coupled with the headwrap could place this fictitious subject anywhere on both sides of the Atlantic. As a portrait de fantaisie, this pastel provides insight into how Deschamps perceived biracial women in the eighteenth century and not how those same women would have understood themselves.