A racist depiction of First Lady Michelle Obama appeared Tuesday on right-wing blog Gateway Pundit based on a Versailles painting. It is “disgusting,” writes L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight. The image recasts a 1775 portrait of Marie Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty, currently on view at the Palace of Versailles. The doctored version replaces the face of the lavishly dressed young monarch with that of the first lady. Above the full-length portrait, in which Obama stands with her hand on a globe, is the caption: “Choosing the next vacation.”
“The caricature of Obama as a profligate queen relies on the racist stereotype of an ‘uppity Negro,’ which emerged among slave masters in an earlier American era,” writes Knight. “Obama, born into a working-class Chicago family whose roots are traced to the pre-Civil War South, graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, prior to holding several high-level positions in the academic and private sectors.” The image originally appeared a year ago on right-wing site Instapundit and was picked up by Gateway Pundit for its post about Obama’s appearance on a Nickelodeon sit-com.
The critic draws a parallel between Gautier’s success distributing images to the masses through engravings and color printing and the Internet’s ability to distribute this image to monitors around the world. There is a downside, he says, to these tools for disseminating mass media: “It created an avenue for the broad dissemination of propaganda, some of it disgusting.” See the full image, reproduced alongside the original, below.