Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blackamoors: Fabulous or Offensive?

       I would like to start this post , by saying , that I am not a Racist.I hope I do not offend any one. That is  not  my attention. If I do, I would like to say I am sorry, right now.I love Blackamoor sculptures for there beauty, history and decorative appeal. And after all, they are only statues, made long ago and not by my hand.
     Moor's were a type of black Africans that were captured and sold into slavery. Mostly on the European market and very heavily in Italy. They were Muslims and some were even found in Spain. They were often referred to as,"Nubian Slaves."
   Blackamoors have a long history in decorative art and it stretches all the way back to the 17th century. The trend seemed to have started in Italy and especially in Venice. The Moors  were sometimes used to steer the Gondola  boats and this is the earliest pictures we find of them. Statues  of Blackamoors in theses boats are very common.
   I am not sure how politically correct they come off nowadays, still, in design circles their true charm and decorative statements remains alive a well for the next generation. They are considered very, "Park Avenue."(New York.) Blackamoors enjoyed a surge of  popularity during the 20th century and are somewhat popular today. One does not see them that often in the Americans, but more so in Europe. Sometimes these statues can start tongues wagging, much as  a person wearing fur does. I am not sure how they became a  popular design motif, but their history through decorative arts is well documented.
   Blackamoor is a slang word that refers to dark skinned people, not so much today, but in the past.
    Most older Blackamoors were carved out of wood and covered in gesso and polychrome painted Some are made of bronze and other metals, while many are made of ceramic and porcelain. They were designed to  be mostly pedestals to hold candelabra or flowers. Some were tables and wall brackets. Smaller ones were often found as table decorations. There are so many of them in Italy that most people hardly even notice them.
   Blackamoors have been favorite decorative pieces for  antique collectors and interior designers for years. They were first created during the Italian Renaissance and became a favorite in the Victorian era.I have always had a thing for them. I guess the first ones I came across were in the movies. I  love to watch period movies , and to be taken back in time ,and experience the ancient world. I have seen places and things in the movies that I would never have seen other wise. I have had several Blackamoors in my days, as a collector and antique dealer. The first one I bought in an antique shop in Chicago. I paid $2,500.00 for it ,25 years ago and I had to put it in lay -a-way. I have bought and sold several since then. I am always sad when they sell and have to go hunt another right away. I guess I kinda feel, Blackamoor deprived. Sad ain't it. I have one today at, My Old Historic House. I bought her, here in rural Missouri, at an antique mall. I almost did not stop at this place, as I get tired going through all these big endless antique malls with booth after booth of junk and common stuff. I was on the road and needed a bathroom break, so I pulled off and went in. Well I almost wet my self when right inside the front door was my Blackamoor. They knew what it was and kinda what it was worth. I got it for a fair price and a lot less than the first one I  bought. I keep her in the entrance hall where I think she looks real pretty against the red and gray Toile wallpaper. She is one of the first things people see when they come for a tour. I am sure some people are shocked, but they have to realize, that she is just a sculpture.
   I hope you will come by some time to see Ms. Blackamoor and take a tour. I will leave the lights on and Sissy Dog will always meet you with a jump and a kiss.

A  polychrome painted necklace adorns Ms. Blackamoors neck.

Ms. Blackamoor welcomes guest to, My Old Historic House.

I love her red shoes and pants.

The Base is very Italian, looks like the Tower of Pisa.


Ivy and Elephants said...

Hi Richard,
I am not offended. I am loving the height of your statue. Blackamoors are amazing pieces of art. I collect the bronze statues and absolutely love them. The detail on them is amazing. My dream is to own a pair of 20th century bronze floor Blackamoor floor lamps for my dining room. That would be the piece de resistance. Thanks for sharing!


Martha said...

She's a very good blackamoor. I have a couple that I've tired of and moved them to the basement -- but they'll be back. And they are very rare and very expensive!

Alison @ The Polohouse said...

Hi Richard!
I am not offended either. I had a couple Nubian candleholders years ago but have sold them since. They were repros though and went perfectly with my toile interiors and French decor that I had in my last home.
I know Charles Faudree uses them a lot in his interiors. You have such a high-end traditionally classic decor in your elegant home, your lovely Blackamoor definitely "works" there!


Barbara F. said...

That is a stunning piece, Richard. I can't believe the height. I have never seen a statute like this before, very rare. xo

Anna at the Doll House said...

How interesting Richard. I am especially intrigued because I think I have only ever seen male Blackamoors.


Jo's This and That said...

Nice! But I would love to see the painting in the background love them!Thanks for sharing your house,Joann

Marcia said...

Hi, Professor Cottrell! Every time I read your blog I feel like I'm in a college art history class! Love your blackamoor, your great photos, and your commentary!

mississippi artist said...

Well I love it,it is an amazing piece of art.I enjoyed the lesson as always.I I have posted more photos of the pilgrimage. Kiss Sissy for me.

The Dusty Victorian said...

Hello Richard,
I can understand why you started your post in a cautious way. But you have nothing to apologize for. History is history and you have a beautiful historic home comparable to a museum.
Blackamoors are an acquired taste, higher taste, on the level of caviar - there are things that are simply not for everyone. Well done.

Kathy said...

Wow, she is quite exquisite Richard! Living here in the deep south you never know how people will react. There are some pieces of pottery that depict the black folk in a terrible likeness - she does not. Thank you for sharing this rich history with us!

lvroftiques said...

Absolutely fabulous!! And one of your pieces that I covet the most (Yes I know it's wrong but it's true) And that's saying something because you have so many beautiful things *winks* I have a dream of finding one for my own one day. Until then I'll just stop by and admire yours. Vanna

Babs said...

Richard, Thanks for sharing your beautiful Blackamoor and the history associated with the pieces. I remember seeing a bronze one on an British antique show, but have never seen one 'in person'.
Hope you have a great weekend and keep on sharing all your wonderful knowledge of antiques.

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Hi Richard, This is a wonderful piece and I have never seen one this large. I recently sold a beautiful blackamoor marble top table in my shop. I would have loved to have kept it...but I can't keep everything!
~ Sherry

xinex said...

She is pretty, Richard, and quite tall. Thanks for the history!...Christine

Victorian1885 said...

Thank you for sharing your history on the statue.. she is beautiful! I can't say I have ever seem a Blackmoors but now will know all the history around them if I ever do. Have a fantastic weekend!


Butterbean Row said...

She is beautiful! What are people thinking? It is history and truth. What in the world is wrong with that! People get me so mad sometimes with this political correctness!

Confessions of a Plate Addict said...

What an exquisite piece, Richard! I love the toile in the background, too! I am catching up a little...enjoyed the tour of your beautiful home! Hope you are having a great weekend!...hugs...Debbie

Debbiedoo's blogging and blabbing said...

Hi Richard. I have to be honest and tell you I have never seen such a beautiful piece of art. I do not find it offensive at all...great piece. I learned something new today.

outjunking said...

Your post was very educational. I always enjoy the history we are given by your post. I thought she was lovely.

Rosemary@villabarnes said...

No worries Richard. Statues don't offend me, people do, and you haven't done that. I think you have a beautiful piece of art. I've bought and sold blackamoors. I appreciate their craftsmanship. If I ever come to visit, I would love to meet her, and Sissy.

Priscilla said...

America is so over-sensitive on the subject of race. It seems one can't say or appreciate anything having to do with minorities without worrying about giving offense. Really, shouldn't we have gotten past this by now?

debchester said...

I enjoyed this information on blackamoors. Like someone else said, I don't think I've ever seen or heard of a female statue before. She's spectacular and makes quite a visual statement in your entry.

What is she holding? Is there supposed to be a candle or light of some kind in her hand? Just curious.


Curtains In My Tree said...

your Ms Balckamoor was beautiful and looked perfect in your hall way greeting visitors

lady Estelle said...

I just adore Ms Balckamoor. I would love to come and visit her and take a tour of your lovely home.
I too, learn so much every time I visit your blog. Thank you for stopping by and giving me encouragement. I wish you well, kind Sir.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, you acknowledge the origin of these statues (depictions of Black Africans, Moors and/or Nubian slaves), yet you neglect to mention the horrific conditions under which they lived. As an African American woman and educator, I think it should be made clear how these and other depictions of people of African descent came about. No, I am not offended; I have several Blackamoors because I believe they should be in the hands of those they represent. Furthermore, I question anyone who starts off with "I am not a racist." Perhaps not, but there is greater depth and history to these statues.

Paul Edelstein Studio & Gallery said...

Hi I just bought an old master painting with a blackamoor in it. It looks like a royal painting. A woman is coming down a staircase and is greeted with her baby thatay have just been christened. Can I send u an image? It looks Spanish or Italian. Sincerely. Paul Edelatein Memphis Tn. 901/496-8122

Paul Edelstein Studio & Gallery said...

What is your email ? I can send u an image of the painting! -Paul

Sherri S said...

Beautiful Blackamoor and I am certainly NOT offended. I have collected a few myself but none so nice as yours. Thank you for sharing.

Hereford Grounds said...

I suspect whether there is offense taken has much to do, but certainly is not restricted to, whether or not your skin leans more toward a dark brown tone. For those who can't fathom why these statues might be offensive you might give a touch of study to the horrible conditions of slavery and the period in and immediately following those times for persons of African descent. I find the Black a moor statues mixed in as if they represent something as charming as a pet dog, chilling anf repulsive. These are from a time where people with dark skin were stolen from their homes, raped, beaten, and treated in a fashion that many of us, were we to learn of such treatment of a dear pet, would seek relief for that creature. Blackamoor is as appropriate in decor and statues of women being raped, bound or tortured, of Jewish people in Nazi conditions or of any other depiction of the ill treatment of any creature. If you would find a gilded statue of a spaniel chained to a tree or caged though depicted with a wagging tail to be adorable, then I suspect that a depiction of a human being in those conditions is charming to you as well. I find it a horrible hearkening back to a time that is thankfully past. I do love touring historic homes, especially the plantations of the South but in no sense am I able to remove from my mine the sacrifices of families of slaves torn apart, women raped, humans beaten so that such beauty might exist. I have over time learned to accept that to be a part of the story of the south and part of the ying and the yang on the beauty of old plantation. I was not a slave owner, I have not beaten raped nor kidnapped anyone yet it seems in poor taste, at best, to present as 'gentile' representations of times when practices of this kind were du jour. I find it morally difficult to see beauty in anything that suggests that enslavement of a human being might have decorative value. I love the work of Charles Faudree save for his use of black a moors in his designs... to me it is as undesirable as a bloodstain on a Chanel suit.

Esther Brook said...

Hi Richard,

Thank you so much for that insightful read. I am of African descent and I love Blackamoors! I have a pair of candelabras, and would love a small pedestal table.
I've been to Venice but must say that was before I fell in love with these decorative objects. Next trip I will certainly look for them.


Linda Pace said...

I have a blackamoor decorative art piece that I would like to sell. It is of a woman. My aunt had it in her home for many years and I have now inherited it.
Please contact me for more information

Linda Pace said...

I have a blackamoor decorative art piece that I would like to sell. It is of a woman. My aunt had it in her home for many years and I have now inherited it.
Please contact me for more information