How can a portrait make a broader social statement?
Throughout history, portraits have often borrowed elements from earlier works of art. Sometimes this was the artist’s way of demonstrating his or her own skill. Often it was a way of imbuing the new image with some added meaning. For instance, if the heir to the throne was depicted in the same pose and with the same props as his or her predecessor, the portrait might act as a symbol of dynastic continuity. On the other hand, if an individual overthrew the sitting ruler and then appropriated elements of that ruler’s portrait, the message sent was quite different. In basing his painting on one by the seventeenth-century painter Velázquez, contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley makes his own unique statement.