HTC Forum: David Pullins



“Juan de Pareja and Enslaved Artisanal Labor in Seventeenth-Century Spain”

Reevaluation of Velázquez’s Portrait of Juan de Pareja (1650) reveals the extent to which the field has failed to address questions of race and enslaved labor in seventeenth-century Spanish art and visual culture – even, or perhaps especially, when these issues are germane to one of art history’s most canonical spaces, Velázquez’s own studio. Building on research for The Met’s recent exhibition and catalog Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter (Yale: 2023), co-curated by Pullins and Vanessa K. Valdés (CUNY), this talk addresses Pareja’s decades-long enslavement in Velázquez’s studio before he became a painter in his own right and considers the issues raised as more broadly relevant to how we understand a range of artisanal trades including sculpture and metalwork. It will also consider the intersection of Pareja’s historiography, which often challenges conventional models of artists’ biographies or bodies of painted work, with the exhibition’s critical and public reception.

The HTC Forum is made possible in part by the generosity of Thomas Beischer through the Lipstadt-Stieber Fund. 



David Pullins is associate curator responsible for seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French, Italian and Spanish painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His forthcoming book, The Mobile Image from Watteau to Boucher (Getty Research Institute: 2024) builds on his PhD from Harvard University. Prior to joining The Met, he was an assistant curator at The Frick Collection and a lecturer in HTC.