Three Laughs by Ben Dunn

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Nicolas Cordier's Il Moro

Erin Giffin. "Nicolas Cordier's Il Moro: the African as "Christian Antiquity" in Early Modern Rome." MA Thesis, University of Washington, 2012.

Between 1607 and 1612 Scipione Borghese, the Cardinal nephew of Pope Paul V, commissioned a polychrome sculpture of an African man from the artist Nicolas Cordier. On the surface, Cordier's Il Moro seems a purely exotic object and an anomaly within the Borghese collection. The context surrounding the sculpture's commission, however, illuminates the politically charged circumstances of this representation. Cordier's strategic mix of materials adds yet another dimension to the African figure: the antique fragment embedded within the frame of the African invests the sculpture with a persona which is simultaneously identifiable yet resolutely different. Through Il Moro the Borghese broadcast a political agenda bent on international expansion. Their mitigation of ethnographic differences and negotiation of cultural boundaries demonstrate the escalating awareness of distant societies in the early modern era and the necessity of political alliances in the papal community.

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