Commissioned by King William III, the statue of the Moor and an accompanying Indian formed part of the embellishment of the gardens at Hampton Court Palace, which had been laid out in the Louis XIV manner by the King's 'architect', Daniel Marot (d. 1752), and were further transformed around 1700 under the direction of William Talman (d. 1719), Superintendent of King William's gardens. These attendants, depicted supporting stone salvers with sundial plates, were painted as bronze, and provided a striking contrast to the statues after the antique that inhabited the rest of the gardens. Like the rare birds in the menagerie and plants from the greenhouses, the Moor wearing an Indian feathered loin cloth together with his companion lent an exotic air to the King's Privy Garden on the south front of the Palace adjoining his Thames-side Banqueting House. The figures are indicative of the influence of foreign cultures introduced to England through the East India trading companies in the late 17th century, when Moors and Indians also featured prominently in the Court theatre.
It was provided by the Dutch sculptor, John Van Nost (d. 1710) of Hyde Park Road, who also supplied the celebrated Bacchic youths bearing flower baskets for the gate piers of the Palace's Broad Walk.
Nost modelled and cast the life-size figure of the Moor in September 1701. His account "for modelling a figure representing a Blackamore Kneeling, being 5ft. high holding up a sun diall......
For Casting the said Blackamore in hard mettall and repairing",
totalled #30:00:00. It was set on a black marble pedestal the following month and sited on the steps to the Privy garden. The statue was then painted by Thomas Highmore, the Sergeant Painter, who was paid for "brunsing the blackamoore that supports the dyall" in October 1701. Francis Reding was paid "for Carriage of a Figure representing a moor Supporting a sundyall and the dyall from Mr. Nosts to Hampton Court" (PRO works 5/51). Its 'bronzing' would have corresponded to that of Renaissance bronzes and harmonized with it's black marble pedestal. The technique followed is likely to have been that given in C. A. D'Aviler's, Cours Complet d'Architecture, 1691.
Prior to the death of King William on March 8th 1702, the figures were moved to another part of the Privy garden-the Glass Case garden. (Information kindly supplied by Susanne Groom).
This present sundial plate was commisioned by John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough (d. 1722), from Daniel Delander and bears his 'M' monogram wreathed by the ribbon of the Order of the Garter and ensigned with his coronet in a triumphal military trophy of flags. When, on her accession in 1702, Queen Anne granted John Churchill a Dukedom and made him a Knight of the Order of the Garter, she appointed Sarah Duchess of Marlborough (d. 1744) as Ranger of Windsor Great Park. Windsor Lodge in the Great Park was occupied as the Marlborough's principal residence, so it seems likely that the Moor was moved from Hampton Court to Windsor Lodge at this time and was refitted with the Duke's sundial. This explains the evidence of an earlier dial, as there are two sets of fixings in the salver. This dial is signed by Daniel Delander (d. 1733) who, having trained with Thomas Tompion, became free of the Clockmaker's Company in 1699.
The brass plaque on the figure's plinth was applied in 1897 following the sale at Cowdray by the 8th Earl of Egmont. It was then purchased for the Philipson-Stow collection.
The circumstanial evidence of Nost's Moor having been lost from Hampton Court, The Duke of Marlborough's monogram on the sundial plate together with the applied plaque on the base point to this piece being the original blackamoor that the elder John van Nost modelled and cast in hard mettall for Hampton Court.
Nost's Indian from Hampton Court, is likely to have corresponded with the figure now at Arley Hall, Cheshire (See J. Davis, Antique Garden Ornament, Woodbridge, 1991, Pl. 1.14). Copies of both the Royal sundial statues were later acquired from Nost for Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire, by Thomas Coke, Vice-Chamberlain to Queen Anne, and were paid for in 1706 (Davis, pp. 48-49).