Sunday, 25 August 2013

An English Black Magus That Never Made The Short List

The Adoration of the Magi, England, 1450-1500
Alabaster with paint and gilding
Victoria and Albert Museum no. A.39-1946

Of the several potential candidates from the V&A collection for my essay on the black Magus, back in 2008,  this one never even made the short list a number of reasons.

It was certainly in the running as it  within the course time line c.1420-1520, the piece finally I picked only just made it at c1520. But vitally this Black Magus wore no earring, which at the time I was first considering works to write about the earring was an essential attribute for the piece to make it  to my short list. The second was he didn’t look black, his features were far too European.

Detail - The Black Magus 
The Adoration of the Magi, England, 1450-1500

Lastly, I just didn’t like the piece, it lacked aesthetic appeal to me. And to spend four months studying and 4,500 words writing  on something I didn't like was not a consideration. Now with the hindsight of five years of study of the Black Magus I’m going back to V&A to look at this piece again.

I’m booking an appointment to see it,  hopefully sometime in October so, I can report my findings as 'breaking news' as part of Image & Reality Black Africans in Renaissance England 2013 my contribution along with Dr Miranda Kaufmann for Black History Month 2013!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Black Africans in Renaissance England: The Image and The Reality Black History Month 2013 Presentation

IMAGE?  Why was there an image of a Black African King in English churches even though no Black African Kings visited Europe during the Renaissance ?  
REALITY? Was John Blanke the only Black African in England at the time ? What else did or could Black Africans do beside play trumpet for English royalty? 
Black Magus, Devon RoodScreen, c1520 and John Blanke 1511
In order to answer these questions for Black History Month this year I've joined forces with Dr Miranda Kaufmann to produce a presentation on two complimentary aspects of the Black African presence in Renaissance England - Image and Reality. The talks are based on the presentations we did together at the British Library last year.

Miranda discusses the reality of the lives of Black Africans in Renaissance England  from her PhD work which uncovered evidence of over 360 Black Africans in Britain from 1500-1640. While I look at the image of the Black African, its origins and how it was interpreted at the time.

More detail of IRBARE2013 can be found here or you can Follow on Twitter @IRBARE2013 or Like us on Facebook

For bookings contact me or email IRBARE2013

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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Stolen15C Panels from Church in Devon same as V&A Panel ?

Saddened to read of the theft of two panels and the damage done to a third in a robbery from the Holy Trinity ChurchTorbryan. 

The theft happened in this unlocked church between 22nd July  and 8th August. Demonstrating how vulnerable our volunteer managed churches are. The stolen pieces are unique, priceless which ever way you it express it – money or culture.

I was particularly interested as Holy Trinity’s Rood roodscreen has the same frame as the one I studied from the V&A.

Though Holy Trinity  has a much finer quality painting than the rough finish of the V&A indicating the hand of a more skilful  artist. In fact Holy Trinity is one of the finest screens in England but, sadly (for me) has no Adoration scene in its 40 figure panels.
V&A Panel 
Holy Trinity Church, Torbryan
Quoting from my essay on the V&A piece:

The [V&A]’s oak framework is carved with conventional Gothic foliage. It is framed on three sides by wheat-corn inspired, gilded carved mouldings regularly incised diagonally across the beam variations of this corn moulding are also found on[both Holy Trinity and the V&A frame] indicating that [they] come from a similar tradition.

Each of the framework’s four lights is filled with a single painted figure from The [figures] framed by a distinctive carved ,cusped gothic ogee arch with a trefoil intrados. Its ogee arches are a feature the [V&A] work shares with [Holy Trinity] …….. The common tradition detected in the arches and mouldings is seen again in the sills where perhaps again ornamental variations indicate a common tradition which may have been formalised into a common pattern book shared amongst the carvers guild