Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why Rappers Shouldn't Drive An Alfa Romeo ...

Adrian Goldsworthy and I were walking down the road when we passed an Alfa Romeo showroom. He pointed out that their emblem shows a crusader cross and a snake eating a Saracen ...


He told me that it's based on a shield outside the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, photo below:


Alfa Romeo don't seem willing to discuss their emblem. So is it meant to be negative / racist / very un-PC?

I turned to JSTOR, and found this brilliant article: Elizabeth McGrath, Ludovico il Moro and His Moors, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 65, (2002), pp. 67-94 (JSTOR).

McGrath gathers the evidence for Ludovico later Duke of Milan, being given the cognomen "il Moro" as a child due to his swarthy colouring. Ludovico chose to embrace this, make Moors his emblem and so popularised Africans that every noble family had to have one as a servant (although slavery was still sanctioned, even encouraged by the Catholic Church at the time, their status is unclear).

The oldest image of the Moor-eating snake seems to be this 1515 illustration of a pageant at Lyon showing the "Gardens of Milan" from the reign of Francois Ier (p. 87 in McGrath).

The pediment of the little temporary pavilion clearly shows a shield with a snake eating a Moor - detail below.

Although Francois did conquer Milan soon after, this image was produced in anticipation of his victory, so the Moor probably represents the Sforza ruler he plans to gobble up ...

The snake eating the African Moor is pretty dated as an emblem, but might just be acceptable as being vaguely historical on it's own. The addition of a Crusader red cross on a white background makes it kinda racist.
So just as Jay-Z boycotted Crystal champagne after their rather crass comments, I would suggest that rappers might like to avoid Alfa Romeo cars ...

1 comment:

Ethan Gruber said...

Never heard of a Moorish rapper.

Post a Comment