Confident and self-aware, the women Thomas depicts are powerful protagonists in control of how they are portrayed. This work is part of a series that considers little-known paintings of Black women by modern artists. The composition was inspired by Édouard Manet’s La négresse (also known as Portrait of Laure, 1862), which was painted in preparation for the figure of the maid in his iconic Olympia (1863). Thomas obtained the subtitle from Manet’s description of his subject. Rooted in her desire to represent Black women on their own terms, Thomas’s portrait of Qusuquzah, who frequently models for the artist, celebrates the beauty of Black trans womanhood.
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