C1880 Venetian Carved and Polychromed Wooden Blackamoor 131 cm Tall

$3,250.00 of Ventian magnificence.


Venetain Blackamoors are bound to be a mystery to contemporary viewers. These sculptures are inextricably linked to the Italian slave trade. The black figures are usualy swathed in richly coloured garments and turbans. The initial models for these were the Mamluk Egyptian slave buyers who came to Venice to buy ivory skinned, blue eyed, golden haired slaves (from Slav) from mostly the Baltic, Eastern Europe and Greece. Venice was as captivated by the richly dressed Egyptians as the Egyptians were captivated by ivory coloured slaves. Venice had overtaken Genoa as "slave central" by the 1400s.

In 1453, The Byzantine Empire was annexed by Islamic rulers, so Greek slaves substantially dried up. Oddly, slaves then became so expensive, that cheaper, paid labour replaced them. By the 16th century it was cheaper to buy African slaves than Caucasian ones. There had long been an established domestic slave trade in Africa, and export markets brought considerable wealth to some African countries. Blackamoors from the 16th century onwards usually depict slaves rather than masters, but the magnificent garments of the old slave buyers was retained. The prominence of probable partly African noblemen such as Allessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, "the Moor", also influenced the retention of opulent costume.

Throughout Europe black slaves were often dressed in princely turbans and rich clothes, regardless of their original African or Indian native costume.

This 131 cm tall, late 19th century carved wood Blackamoor is enriched with lush reflective clothing in silver leaf with oil varnish over it. White Moors, by contrast included, for example the enslaved white Ottoman Turks that powered the galleys of the navy of France's Louis XIV.

Print or share this page

To enquire about this item, call on 03 9489 8467 or fill out the form below.

Send Enquiry
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.