Sunday 6 November 2011

Does Saint Maurice have to be black to be Saint Maurice?

Victoria and Albert  St Maurice v Magdeberg Cathedral St Maurice
I was delighted when I was invited by the Victoria and Albert Museum to comment on the image  of St Maurice as part of their Spotlight on Africa and the Diaspora program . The St Maurice In Magdeberg cathedral was one of the earliest (to me) and most dramatic images of a Black In Renaissance in Europe I discovered when I started this blog.

I was surprised when I saw the actual St Maurice I’d been invited to discuss with a V&A curator, this was not a 
St Maurice image in the Magdeberg style , this image was the like no St Maurice I’d seen so  far (see images below) - this St Maurice  looked distinctly  European.

Sixteenth Century St Maurices from German Influenced Areas
Subsequent research gave possible reasons as to why in Germany at that time an apparently white St Maurice could be appreciated when the overwhelmingly accepted image was black. Nevertheless this white St Maurice forced me to consider, did St Maurice need to be look black for me to see him as black, the V&A's St Maurice has curly hair but no other visible signs of blackness, is that enough, to be black do you have to look black ?

Discussing the question with friends - black and white - brought up the same question but this time colour inverted - do you have to look white to be white? That's what I wrote about in my response to V&A's St Maurice in the brochure to support the Spotlight on Africa and the Diaspora program:

I must have said something right (or controversial) as I've been invited to present the V&A's St Maurice and my response in front of the piece - for 40 minutes on the 19th November.

This invitation has prompted me to dig deeper into the background of the V&A's St Maurice, its creator and his times, I plan to write about my findings in the next post.

1 comment:

JD said...

Amazing images. I'm Looking forward to the development of your research as it what seems to link into my contribution in a debate via my own interpretations about how I compose my art as an African Diaspora Artist.