Description Probably conceived for a collector associated with the court of the Medici family in Florence, where the artist was employed, this statuette is, for this period, an unusual tribute to athletic grace and physical power in a black man. The impact of his physique is muted by the traditional loose-fitting body suit and hood of the court jester–the court entertainer, black or white, enslaved or free, who amused the court, usually with acrobatic prowess or humor. However, this man is hardly in a "jesting" mood; his facial expression and hand on his head suggest a deep hurt. Previous to its acquisition by the Walters, the statuette was not recognized as representing a black man. Ancient Roman artists occasionally depicted African men and boys as entertainers (usually naked) in small bronze statuettes. During the Renaissance, athlete/entertainers were likely to be depicted clothed, but the powerful physique of this man is only slightly obscured by the leather jerkin of a jester, a court entertainer known for wit or physical prowess. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the position was as often held by free black or white men as by slaves. Mochi worked for the ruling Medici family in Florence; research may uncover whether the Jester was inspired by a member of that court. The personalization of the figure’s emotions suggests that it is based on an actual individual.
|9/12/2012||Examination||Examined for Exhibition|
- Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton. 2012-2013.
Provenance Abbot Guggenheim Collection, New York [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Sale, Sotheby's, New York, January 27, 2011, lot 450; Walters Art Museum, January 27, 2011, by purchase.
Credit Museum purchase, Renaissance & Baroque Fund, a generous grant, and individual donations through the Banner, Lewis, Tanner Circle, 2011
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