Kneeling Black woman

probably German

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 520

The sculptor of this statuette likely chose to depict a Black woman because of the dark color of the rosewood, which was newly introduced to Europe from Portugal’s colonial outposts in Brazil. The sexualized pose references a classical sculpture of Venus, goddess of love. Through its material and subject, this sculpture reflects the associations Europeans made among people of Black African descent, foreign raw materials, luxury, and sexuality. This collector’s piece was designed to be handled and closely observed, further complicating its meaning and legacy.

Kneeling Black woman, Brazilian rosewood; pedestal: lapis lazuli, marble and gilded metal, probably German

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