Coveted Antique Blackamoor Earrings
The theme of these antique earrings is referred to as Blackamoor or Moretto. Produced in Venice since the 16th century and used by the Croatian city of Rijeka, as a symbol to celebrate the victory over the Turks, this motif was influenced by the exotic inspiration of the mysterious East. For jewelry the classic image is that of the head or bust of a young African male typically wearing an “Oriental” style turban. Ornately decorated, the pieces are usually enameled. Believed to have protective powers, the figure was worn in left ear as a talisman or amulet against evil.
This pair of Blackamoor earrings is larger than most with a longer loop and a slightly larger size head. Crafted of 14k rose gold, the head and shoulders rendition features black and white enamel decoration and front to back ear wires. Subtle engraving and pattern work embellish the headgear and collar.
Date: Circa 1900.
Historical Notes: The appellation “Blackamoor (in Italian Moretto, Moretti) figure is a classification which refers to a specific type of image It is a stylized depiction of a black African used in sculpture, jewelry, armorial designs and decorative art. Such figures have been a specialty of Venice, Italy since the 16th century. According to Newman’s “An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry” such pieces were made as a cameo or as an ornament in the round to decorate a pendant, brooch, hatpin or the shank of a seal. They were, and still are a specialty of Venice, but such cameos, of male or female heads, were also produced elsewhere in the 16th to 19th centuries. The word itself is thought to come from the Middle English "blacke Moor".
At the 50th Venice Biennale of 2003 (“The Venice Biennale has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Ever since its foundation in 1895, it has been in the avant-garde, promoting new artistic trends and organizing international events in contemporary arts.”). Fred Wilson, an African-American sculptor whose installation incorporated Blackamoor was the American representative.
Measurements: ¾ of an inch (1.9 cm) in total length including ear wires by 1/2 of an inch (1.2 cm) in diameter. Weight of 3.2 grams (2.1 dwt) for the pair.
Condition: Very good; re-enameling to black areas of face.
Origin: European and is most likely Italian or Croatian.
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