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The Transatlantic Slave Trade
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Fletcher and Rogers Funds, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876-1967), by exchange, supplemented by gifts from friends of the Museum, 1971 [1971.86]. Photograph © 1981 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660). Juan de Pareja (born about 1610-died 1670), ca. 1650. Oil on canvas, 32 x 27 1/2 inches.

Juan de Pareja (ca. 1610-1670)

The African slave trade to the West started with the abduction of people by the Portuguese, who sailed down the continent between 1441 and 1482. Africans, mostly from Senegambia, could be found in Spain as early as 1447. Between 1489 and 1497, two thousand slaves were sold in Valencia; and in 1475 a free African was appointed supervisor of the large black population of Seville. Several freed Africans became prominent in Spain as early as the end of the fifteenth century. Among them were a lawyer, a priest, and a professor at the University of Granada.

Juan de Pareja is one of the most famous Africans enslaved in Europe. Born of slave parents, he was willed to painter Diego Velázquez. De Pareja's work was to grind pigments and stretch canvases; he was not allowed to paint. He learned in secret and became a talented artist in his own right. Freed in 1654, he continued to work openly in Velázquez's studio.

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