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Bust of an African Woman

A work made of bronze.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of bronze.




Charles Henri Joseph Cordier
French, 1827-1905
Cast by: Eck et Durand Fondeur
French, 19th century

About this artwork

Charles Henri Joseph Cordier was still a student of French sculptor François Rude when his plaster-cast version of the clay portrait he had modeled of a Sudanese man was accepted to the Paris Salon. Exhibited in the same year that France extended full emancipation to all residents, including those in its African colonies and territories, Cordier’s sculpture was seen as embodying the Romantic ideals of individual liberty. Its detailed realism (including the individual strands of tassels and hair) appealed to the public’s growing interest in ethnographic accuracy, while its strong features and dignified expression matched the European tradition for expressing moral and physical purity. Two years later, Cordier created a female portrait that was equally acclaimed as a blend of realism (the model wears a patterned wrap, heavy earrings, and coral necklace, all associated with East Africa) and idealism (in the sitter’s regal and aristocratic bearing). In 1851 casts of both sculptures were commissioned for the anthropological gallery of the National History Museum in Paris, and for the International Exhibition in London, sealing their fate as companion pendants. While Cordier came to specialize in ethnographic sculpture and made several trips to North Africa during his lifetime, it is by these two works that he is best remembered.

On View

European Painting and Sculpture, Gallery 223


Charles Henri Joseph Cordier


Bust of an African Woman








Inscribed and dated: 1851 / CCORDIER


H. 71.7 cm (31 in.) (with socle) H. 62.2 cm (27 1/4 in.) (without socle)

Credit Line

Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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