The Exposure of Women in Art: A Mulatto Woman

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Eugene Delacroix, A Mulatto Woman, 1824
The Exposure of Women in Art
by EMMA SHAPIRO

In the 1800s Mulattos had a lower social ranking than most whites. Society did not embrace their differences but rather chastised them for their mixed heritage. In Eugene Delacroix’s A Mulatto Woman, Delacroix quite obviously depicts a Mulatto woman. Delacroix painted people of all social status, not just the elites or poor. Although Delacroix paints many women, he concurred with the ideology that women had no place in political activity. 

The painting of A Mulatto Woman preceded one of Delacroix’s most famous works, Liberty Leading the People, by six years. These two paintings simultaneously compliment and contradict each other. Both the Mulatto woman and Liberty wear loose white blouses which reveal their chests. Delacroix exposes Liberty’s chest as a symbol of power, feminine/supernatural strength, and motherly care as she takes care of the young male revolutionists. The Mulatto woman’s subtle leakage has completely different connotations. The woman’s face does not show strength but rather a shy vulnerability. Her solemn face and hesitance to cover up hints toward her submission to male control. During the time of this painting, men who had relations with Mulatto women were seen as a disgrace. The looseness of her blouse makes her appear almost pregnant, giving her spillage a motherly presence. Her white shirt, jewelry, and put-togetherness give her a pure appearance. 

The exposure of Liberty’s chest in Liberty Leading the People created controversy because of the strength of the woman. The bare chested woman in A Mulatto Woman did not receive the same attention because her powerlessness did not contradict societal ideas of the inferiority of women. Her bare chest places her in the motherly, domestic sphere, where society believed she belonged.

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