Bust of an African Woman

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

Bust of an African Woman, 1851

H. 71.7 cm (31 in.) (with socle)
H. 62.2 cm (27 1/4 in.) (without socle)
Inscribed and dated: 1851 / CCORDIER
Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1963.840

Sculpted images of African men and women were rarely shown in public galleries before the 19th century, but Charles Cordier’s plaster Bust of Saïd Abdullah had a tremendous reception when it was displayed at the 1848 Paris Salon. Finished in two weeks, the bust reflects the mid-19th-century European fascination with non-Western physiognomy, costumes, and customs, later characterized as Orientalism. In 1851 Cordier made a pendant bust of a female entitled African Venus (now in the Royal Collection at Osborn House, Isle of Wight, England), and bronze casts of both busts were commissioned, indicating the growing crossover of cultures as Africa became more accessible with improved methods of transportation and trade.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

"R. & M. Andrade," Apollo 121, 423 (1960), p. x.

Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Report, 1963-64, p. 19.

John Maxon, Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly 58, 1 (1964).

S. Réveilluad Kriz, L'Odyssée d'un peintre: Drouet Réveilluad (Paris: Fischbacher, 1973), p. 17.

Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Exotische Welten, Europäsische phantasien (1987), pp. 357, 491, no. 3.62.

New York, Charles Janoray, LLC, A Golden Age of French Sculpture, 1850-1900 (2003), p. 40, fig. 2.

Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Charles Cordier, 1827-1905: l'autre et l'ailleurs (2004), pp. 19, 205, no. 475.

For comparison, see:

Stanislas Lami, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école Francaise au dix-neuviéme siècle 1, reprint (Liechtenstein, 1970), p. 417.

Hugh Honour, The Image of the Black in Western Art IV, 2 (Cambridge, MA, 1976-1989), pp. 100-02, fig. 72.

Jeannine Durand-Revillon, "Un promoteur de la sculpture polychrome sous le Second Empire, Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier (1827-1905)," Soc. Hist. Art Francais (1982), p. 192.

Hermann Pollig, et al, Exotische Welten, Europäsische Phantasien (Stuttgart, 1987), pp. 357, 491, no. 3.62.

Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, et al, La Sculpture ethnographique, de la Vénus hottentote à la Tehura de Gauguin (Paris, 1994), p. 55, no. 33.

Ownership History

Cast in Paris, 1851 and believed to be the original pair cast for the artist [see letter from Gerald Kerin in curatorial object file]. Sold directly by the artist to an English (Devon) private collector, 1851 [according to letter from William Redford, in curatorial file; Cordier brought ethnographic busts to the 1862 London Exposition, see Exotische Welten, p. 357]. Purchased from same collector by William Redford, the agent for Gerald Kerin, Ltd. [see same letter in curatorial file]. Sold by Gerald Kerin, Ltd. to the Art Institute, 1963.