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John Nost (d. 1710)

Bust of an enslaved man c.1700

Marble | 98.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 1396

King's Gallery, Kensington Palace

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  • A coloured marble bust of an enslaved man, his head turned and looking up to the left; wearing a turban with plumes, collar about his neck, a shirt with a jewelled collar and wrap tied about; resting on a waisted turned marble socle.

    This man has traditionally been identified as a favourite personal servant of William III (r.1689-1702), but there is no contemporary record of this. The feathered turban and jewelled band indicate high, perhaps royal status, but the dog-collar around his neck unmistakably marks him as a slave. Two small stubs of marble may indicate that it formerly had a clasp or padlock. Accounts of London in the early eighteenth century speak of a large black population employed as personal servants, footmen, coachmen and musicians, and in the military, but slaves were also evidently still regarded as personal property.

    The sculpture was previously referred to as 'Bust of a Moor', a title likely taken from London in 1710 from the Travels of Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach (trans. and ed. W.H. Quarrell and M. Mare, London, 1934), which described a 'bust of a Moor very well done from life – made, indeed, of nothing but coloured stones, with great skill' at Kensington Palace.

    In 2013-14  the bust was the centrepiece of an installation by Grahame Mortimer Evelyn entitled Call and Responses: the Odyssey of the Moor commissioned by Royal Collection Trust and Historic Royal Palaces, in the State Apartments at Kensington Palace.

    The sculptor, John Nost, is best known for carved marble funerary monuments and decorative chimney pieces using exotic marbles.

  • Medium and techniques

    Marble

    Measurements

    98.5 cm (whole object)

  • Category
  • Alternative title(s)

    [Historic title] Bust of a Moor