29 September 2011 to 29 January 2012
1040 Vienna, Karlsplatz 8
P: +43 (0)1 505 87 47
F: +43 (0)1 505 87 47 7201
ANGELO SOLIMAN (c.1721–1796)
The story of the "court Moor" Angelo Soliman is part of the mythology of Vienna, not least because of the desecration and preparing of his corpse for the imperial cabinet of natural curiosities. A man who had enjoyed a distinguished career in the enlightened circles of the capital was posthumously displayed in a museum as a half-naked "savage", adorned with ostrich feathers and shells.
CHAMBERLAIN AND FREEMASON
Born around 1721 in sub-Saharan Africa, enslaved as a child, Soliman was sold to a Sicilian family before entering the service of Field Marshal Prince Lobkowitz as personal attendant, soldier and confidant. From 1753 he lived in Vienna, where he played an important role in the household of Prince Liechtenstein: Soliman was chamberlain and tutor to the prince’s children, but he also served as an exotic "showpiece" in courtly ritual. A freemason, he knew Mozart and the preeminent scholars and scientists of the day.
EMANCIPATION AND ASSIMILATION
Soliman is the first non-European migrant in Vienna whose life is sufficiently well documented that we can discover something of him personally. Nonetheless, the borders between fact and anecdote remain fluid, and his life can be viewed from varying perspectives: Soliman as mere curiosity or successful immigrant, as eternal slave or rising member of the bourgeoisie, as role model or martyr.
LEGENDS AND STEREOTYPES
The exhibition also tells the story of how Soliman has been viewed since his death: as part of an idyllic, imperial Vienna; in the novelistic and dramatic imaginations of Musil and Herzmanovsky-Orlando; in the post-colonial critique of the legend of a prominent African-Austrian. Continuing African stereotypes and latent racism are also addressed, bringing the exhibition into our own time.
An African in Vienna