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The Moorish Dancers

Moriskentänzer in München

The Moorish Dancers were carved in 1477 for the ballroom of the Munich town hall. This ballroom was a multipurpose space, used for many different types of state function. The figures were created by Erasmus Grasser, who was born in 1450 in Schmidmühlen near Burglengenfeld, and came to Munich around the year 1475. Despite opposition from the Guild, Grasser very soon became a Master Sculptor, and in 1476 was commissioned to create a new coat of arms for Munich.
When Grasser began with the Moorish Dancers in 1477, building work on Munich’s new town hall, built by Joerg von Habbach from 1470-1474 had just been completed. Grasser created 16 pieces, of which 10 still exist today.
The Moorish Dancers embody a kind of dancing that did not stem from German soil. They are thought to be Moriscos, the descendants of the Spanish Moors. The dance came from there, via France and England, to Germany, where it apparently became very popular.
In the centre was a woman – as a goddess of fortune or May Queen – who offered an apple or a ring representing herself as a prize. A fool and musicians provided an escort to the desirable female. And it is these figures which have been lost over time. The dance represents love of life, energy, verve and lightness. The lithe strength of the dancers can be seen in their different forms of expression; rapt, ecstatic and earthy, and the individual appearances of the various dancers also represent the different types of city dwellers and farmers. The dance is preserved today. Grasser received 172 Rheinish guilders for the 16 figures, a fortune at the time. Our dancers are based on the originals created by Erasmus Grasser and portray various perky, sullen or bashful characters such as jugglers, acrobats and musicians.

The Moorish Dancers by Erasmus Grasser

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Sebastian Wesely
Cihangir Kaynar

Rindermarkt 1
80331 Munich - Germany

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