This impressive, lifelike bust was produced around 1700 in England by John Nost II (d1729), a sculptor of Flemish origin. Traditionally this African man has been identified as a favourite personal servant of stadtholder William III 1650- March 19 1702, who ruled as King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689.
African servants were usually depicted in the shadow of their ‘lord’ or ‘lady’. An individual portrait such as this bust is very rare in English sculpture.
The luxurious clothing and ornate necklace form a stark contrast to the slave collar, which expressly denotes the man as a slave. Who he was, is unknown.
We do know that a number of people of African descent worked at The Hague court under William III (amoung others: ‘de moor’ Jan van Dam around 1667). The army with which William invaded England in 1688 reportedly included 200 people from Suriname.
About me EN:
In 2008 I was the guest-curator of the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas. Important advisors Elizabeth McGrath (Rubens and colleagues), Carl Haarnack (slavery in books), Elmer Kolfin (slavery in prints and paintings) en Adi Martis (contemporary art). Gary Schwartz made his research available for The Image of the Black in Western Art .
In 2014 my essay ‘Painted Blacks and Radical Imagery in the Netherlands (1900-1940)’ was published in The Image of the Black in Western Art Volume V (I). (ed. David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates jr.)
In 2017 I published a book about the black servants at the Court of the Royal Van Oranje family. More than a thousand documents have been found about their lives. (only in Dutch)
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