Blackamoors have a long history in decorative art, stretching all the way back to 17th century Italy and the famous sculptor Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732). They are often mistaken for depictions of the African American slaves and the ornamental pieces that they inspired; however, these decorative gems are distinctly different.
As interior features, these sculpture are most often found in pairs and fashioned into lamps and candelabras, or as tables and stands. They recall an era when Northern Africans served as the majordomos of Venetian noble homes. Notably, these rare and exquisite sculptures depict Northern African jet-black skin in contrast with lavish jeweled attire in fantastic poses.
Probably their most peculiar and distinguishing hallmarks are their faces. Almost always they will have very Italianate European facial features. It has been suggested that this is due to the fact that many Venetians at the time may have had little to know exposure to Africans at the time and were sculpting purely based on imagination or from examples of other artisans.
While some take offense at these pieces as degrading and racist, in fact the opposite is true. At the point in history that these pieces came in vogue the Moore’s had a strong presence in Europe and in particular Spain. The Venetians of the time employed these Northern Africans as servants and bodyguards and trusted heads of grand houses. The depictions of these works of art reflect this high regard with a regal bearing and have little relevance to the black Americana depicting slaves in America. Many people often mistake Blackamoors for these pieces of American history and have associated them incorrectly. True blackamoors hold much more value as antiques due to their age, and are crafted in a very different spirit.
It was in this spirit that their likeness became the subject of an artistic movement decorating homes throughout Europe. To this day genuine blackamoors are sought after as collector items and command very high prices from discerning buyers. Their rarity in Australia makes them even more valuable and finding them in a complete set is even more challenging.