Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was widely regarded as the most accomplished man of his age. Not only was he among the most important musicians in Paris during the pre-revolutionary period but he was also a superb all-round athlete and man of arms. Among connoisseurs of the art of fencing, Saint-Georges was considered the finest swordsman in Europe, possessed of extraordinary speed, flexibility and grace, qualities which he also exhibited in abundance as a violinist. The combination of artist, athlete and man of action – for he also held military commands during the revolutionary period – is unique in the history of music and the man himself scarcely less extraordinary than the phenomenal range of his talents.

In an age when slavery was endemic and slaves regarded as ‘moveable objects’, beasts of burden to be starved, beaten, tortured and killed at will, Saint-Georges, who was mixed-race, was, without doubt, one of its most celebrated men.

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