Antique Blackamoors in the Decorative Arts

Parcel gilt blackamoors – Sold

Antique Blackamoors are small sculptures and representations of usually African males along with other dark-skinned figures from European history. Most of them are depicted holding a tray or any receptacle that was intended for practical use. Blackamoors are also incorporated in jewelry and other decorative art while life-size figures were kept as artificial ‘footmen’ in doorways.

Coco Chanel with a Pair of Blackamoor sculptures
Coco Chanel with a Pair of Blackamoor sculptures

Also referred to as ‘Nubians’, this race has been immortalized in décor and jewelry since time immemorial. They are typically male and usually depicted wearing turbans and covered with gold leaf and jewelry. Most are enameled or made from ivory.

Most adult Blackamoors were made out of wood and painted while others were cast in bronze, ceramic and even porcelain. In the past, these were used to grace tables as small decorative pieces and were also used as candelabras. Today, they are mostly found in jewelry and are common in antique Venetian pieces.

Venetian Canal Scene with fabulously dressed Moorish Gondolier
Venetian Canal Scene with fabulously dressed Moorish Gondolier

However, they can now be found gracing earrings, brooches, cuff links, and other pieces and some craftsmen still make individual pieces. Some of the depictions of this race may only go till the head and shoulders which face the viewer. In decorative art, they may be depicted in full-body either as candlesticks or placeholders or in acrobatic poses that showcased their incredibly flexible bodies.

One of the most famous sculptors of Blackamoor art was Andrea Brustolon (1662 – 1732) who was famous for making ebonized Blackamoor gueridons. The sculpture or Blackamoor art pieces were often made in pairs to provide symmetry to the entire set which gave them their own charm and grace. That is one of the main reasons why these figurines have become a favorite with collectors and interior designers for years ever since they made in appearance in the Victorian era.

One of the best and finest examples of Blackamoors in art is the Mohr Mit Smaragdstufe or the ‘Moor with Emerald Cluster’ which is located in Germany. Created in the early 1700s by Balthasar Permoser, the heavily bejeweled statue stands at an impressive 63 cm and is depicted holding a cluster of emeralds on a large tray.

Blackamoors are fine decorative pieces that can add a touch of luxury to décor and any space that requires it.