‘Blackamoor’ art removed from Inn at Little Washington’s living room following couple’s complaint

An antique blackamoor bust photographed several years ago has been removed from the living room of the Inn at Little Washington. John McCaslin | Rappahannock News

The controversy surrounding “blackamoor” art has crossed the pond into Rappahannock County — and more specifically The Inn at Little Washington.

Washingtonian magazine food editor Jessica Sidman posted a story today (Monday, April 2) headlined, “Patrons Push the Inn at Little Washington to Remove Racially Charged Statues: The Michelin-starred restaurant has been reluctant to take down its ‘blackamoor’ art.”

Her article referred to the Inn’s pair of valuable statues depicting dark-skinned men dressed in affluent garb, a style of art that originated in 17th century Italy. The largest of the two statues is found in the Claiborne House on Gay Street — a suite and private event venue — while the other, actually a bust, was on a sideboard in the Inn’s living room.

The latter bust had been removed before the Washingtonian article was published, the Rappahannock News was told. The larger statue is described as being attached to the staircase of the Claiborne House, so its removal would entail interior redesign.

The magazine revealed that an African-American couple from Washington, D.C., Nicole Duncan and her husband (he declined to be identified), “hadn’t heard of blackamoor” until a member of the British Royal family was criticized for wearing an antique blackamoor brooch to the queen’s Christmas brunch last December.

The couple “started doing some research to learn why it can be considered racist and offensive. They discovered that this genre of art . . . often depicts very dark-skinned North African slaves and servants dressed up in jewels and fancy garments by European aristocrats trying to show off their wealth.

“The couple realized they’d also seen blackamoor before — at the Inn at Little Washington,” the story continued. At which point the couple complained to the Inn and requested the statues be removed or else they would not return as customers.

Not all blackamoor art is created equal, Washingtonian pointed out, quoting art historian Adrienne Childs as saying that blackamoor can also depict black noblemen and generals. Childs doubted the bust removed from the Inn’s living room depicted a slave.

The Inn had no official comment on the controversy when reached today.

About John McCaslin 403 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.