It’s Not Actually Black and White

St. Maurice was a religious figure that, when depicted by artists, was black until the sixteenth century.  In A Sanctified Black: Marice by Jean Devisse, it is said that the French, however, “always represented Maurice as white.”  St. Maurice’s racial representation varied from location to location, and there has been a deep study on the facial characteristics given to sculptures of St. Maurice.  Was St. Maurice’s race changed to fit evolving Western ideals?  preview169

It is unclear to me whether St. Maurice began as a black or a white and how this fact became muddied in history.  However, Devisse notes that “one would search in vain in medieval art and probably in Western art as a whole for a representation of the African as faithfully and powerful rendered as this one.”  It is no doubt that St. Maurice is a powerful symbol within art history.

Michaela Stock, Hope College, 2020.

Image: Paul Clifton, preview16.jpg


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