Youths of Nilotic descent often served as models for Greek artists in the Hellenistic Period who sought to study the non-Greek features of various foreign types. As Snowden informs (p. 187 in Bugner, ed., The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 1), "The wide variety of physical features in blacks, the "pure," the Nilotic, and various gradations of black-white mixture, provided a range of opportunity for the employment of artistic skill." The Ptolemaic military exploits into Ethiopia brought large numbers of the African population into Egypt. Snowden acknowledges that the sheer quantity of these studies would indicate that the black "constituted a much larger element in the population of the Hellenistic world than has generally been realized (op. cit. p. 188)."
While many of the more famous images from this period tend to exploit the caricature of the slave and beggar, there are fine works of art, such as the present example, that portray these subjects with "sympathetic interest and dignity (p. 124 in Kozloff and Mitten, The Gods Delight, The Human Figure in Classical Bronze)." See for example the black youth, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, clad in a mantle usually reserved for the intellectual classes (Kozloff and Mitten, op. cit., no. 19, p. 124ff.). For a bronze of similar size and grace, now in the Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris, see pls. 253-255, pp. 200-201 in Bugner, ed., op. cit.