Il Moro di Venezia (Othello)

Il Moro di Venezia (Othello)
Pietro Calvi (1833–1884)
Bronze & Marble
SC21 BORGM
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Moorish Alcove 

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Il Moro di Venezia (Othello)

This ground-breaking work is one of the earliest sculptural examples of combining marble and bronze. It was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1881.

The model was Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), one of the 19th century’s most celebrated Shakespearean actors. Born in New York, Aldridge went to the African Free School for the children of black free and enslaved people and performed with William Brown’s African Theatre, the first African American theatre company in New York.

He then journeyed to England, where in 1833 he became the first black actor to portray Othello on the London stage. Aldridge spent the rest of his life touring Europe and Russia becoming a British citizen in 1863. He used his position on the stage to speak out against slavery and advocate for racial equality.

Born in Milan in 1833, Pietro Calvi trained under the renowned sculptor Giovanni Seleroni. Though remaining in Milan, his work was exhibited in America, Europe and at the Royal Academy. Calvi was renowned for working in bronze and marble to striking effect. He specialised in subjects from the arts, including Shakespeare.

Calvi’s work was very popular with Merton Russell-Cotes and the Museum now holds five busts attributed to him.

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