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Melchior Barthel, German, 1625Ė1672
Bust of a Black Manr, 1660s
marble
24 1/2 x 17 x 8 5/8 inches
Funds given by Mr. and Mrs. R. Crosby Kemper Jr. through the Crosby Kemper Foundations 54:1990

A bust, one of the oldest types of portraits, traditionally shows a personís head and shoulders. Melchior Barthel (MEL-key-or Bar-TELL) skillfully carved this handsome bust of an African man, portraying him with a sensitive expression. The subject here was probably one of the models who posed for the artist in the preparation of a larger tomb sculpture. Carved from black marble, the sculptureís face and neck are highly polished to contrast with the textured surface of his close-cropped hair. The manís shirt and overcoat are elegantly crafted from white marble, adding a dramatic element. The bust is attached to a red marble base that serves as the pedestal. Exotic materials, contrasting colors, and stylish presentation illustrate the seventeenth-century preference for works that express emotion as well as the artistís skill.

For younger students:
What would this sculpture say if it could talk?
What materials would you use to make a portrait of a friend?

For older students:
Who do you think this man was? Does his clothing offer any clues?
What are some reasons the artist might have created this bust?

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