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Bust of a Black Man

Melchior Barthel, German, 1625–1672
Made in
Venice, Veneto, Italy, Europe
Sculpture, stone & mineral
Current Location
On View, Gallery 236
24 1/2 x 17 x 8 5/8 in. (62.2 x 43.2 x 21.9 cm)
Credit Line
Funds given by Mr. and Mrs. R. Crosby Kemper Jr. through the Crosby Kemper Foundations
Public Domain
Object Number
This sensitive portrait of an unknown man stands as one of the most dignified representations of black Africans from seventeenth-century Europe. It is the only secular work known to have been sculpted by Melchior Barthel. The bust exemplifies the artist's mastery of flamboyant carving and bold contrast of color and material. Barthel's greatest achievement was the completion of the Venetian tomb of Doge Giovanni Pesaro (died 1659), which included colossal figures of muscular Moors who stood, like the mythological Atlas, with the weight of the upper tomb on their shoulders. Bust of a Black Man probably records one of the models who posed for that project. Carved in black serpentine, it has been oiled to give it both greater luster and higher contrast with the white marble clothing.
- 1990
Anthony Roth Fine Arts, Ltd., London, England

1990 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Anthony Roth Fine Arts, Ltd. [1]

[1] Invoice dated May 17, 1990 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, May 24, 1980.
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