Essay

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Redeploying a Saint: The Black Maurice and the Shifting Iconography of Blackness in Post-Reformation Germany and the Baltics

Paul H. D. Kaplan

Published online:

18 Oct 2023

Abstract

Abstract

Due to the religious restrictions on imagery introduced by the Reformation, depictions of the Black African incarnation of Saint Maurice were sharply reduced and transformed in the German-speaking lands after 1530. This essay looks in detail at developments in several Saxon cities and also in the Baltic cities of Tallinn (Reval) and Riga. In Magdeburg and Halle, the focus is on secularized images of Maurice, while in Halle a little-known but vast painting replaced the Black Maurice with other Black characters more closely tied to the Bible. In the Baltic cities, the Black Maurice was in a complicated relationship with the heraldry of the Black Heads merchant guilds; only in the last few centuries has a secular version of the Black Maurice fully reappeared.

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