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Sixteenth century blackamoor cameo ring

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Description

ca 1580 -1600 grey agate carving of a blackamoor in an late eighteenth century gold setting.
As jewelry, such figures usually appear in antique Venetian (though nowadays they can be made anywhere) earrings, bracelets, cuff links, and brooches. Some contemporary craftsmen continue to make individual pieces, but it is rare because of modern issues with the depiction of dark-skinned people as “exotic” and decorative. They are also a traditional type of earring in Rijeka under the name morčić.

The blackamoor is typically male, depicted with a head covering, usually a turban, and covered in rich jewels and gold leaf. They are typically enamelled, carved from ebony or painted black to contrast with the bright colors of the embellishments. Depictions may only represent the head, or head and shoulders, facing the viewer in a symmetrical pose.

In decorative sculpture the full body is depicted, either to hold trays as virtual servants or bronze sconces to hold candles or light fixtures. They may be incorporated into small stands, tables, or andirons. They are often portrayed in pairs. Andrea Brustolon (1662–1732) was the most important sculptor of blackamoors. Often these blackamoors are in acrobatic positions that would be impossible to hold for any extended length of time for a real person.

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