Pietrò Calvi (d. 1884) studied at the Milan Academy and later under the sculptor Giovanni Seleroni. Working in both marble and bronze and often combining the two to very good effect, Calvi frequently took his subjects from the arts, particularly from Shakespeare and the opera. He sculpted figures which now decorate Milan Cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and in 1877 presented five busts to the city of Naples - Primavera, Mariuccia, Othello, Selika and Gennaro.
One of Calvi's final creations, The Minstrel, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883, treats a theme of huge popular appeal during the latter half of the 19th century. Minstrel theatrical entertainment had originated and developed in the U.S. in the first half of the century, and consisted of songs, dances, and comic repartee typically performed by white actors made up as blacks. The minstrel show probably evolved from two types of entertainment popular in America before 1830: the impersonation of blacks given by white actors between acts of plays or during circuses; and the performances of black musicians who sang, with banjo accompaniment, in city streets. After the American Civil War, black entertainers - ironically also in blackface make-up - became more prominent than before and the minstrel show became the leading vehicle for popular music in the U.S., its banjo music influencing the development of ragtime and its clog-dancing, the evolution of tap dance.