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Charles Henry Joseph Cordier (French, 1827-1905)

’Saïd Abdallah of the Mayac Tribe, Kingdom of Darfur’ (1848)
Bronze, H. 12 cm

‘African Venus’ (1851?)

Bronze, H. 12.2 cm

Charles Cordier’s career as a sculptor took off in 1848 after completing a portrait bust of Seïd Enkess, a freed enslaved African who had become a professional model in Paris. Cordier exhibited the bust at the Salon under the title ’Saïd Abdallah of the Mayac Tribe, Kingdom of Darfur’. This marked the beginning of his non-European portraiture.

In 1851 Cordier exhibited at the London Crystal Palace Great Exhibition where Queen Victoria acquired a bust of Saïd, as well as the female head ‘African Venus’, as gifts for Prince Albert.
In the same year, Cordier received a commission from the French state to make bronze busts of Saïd Abdallah and African Venus for the anthropology room at the Jardin des Plantes.


In 1856 a grant enabled Cordier to leave on a mission to Algeria to “study the various types of indigenous peoples from the standpoint of art’” This body of work is presented as his ‘Ethnographical and Anthropological Gallery, comprising 50 sculptures at the Palais de l’Industrie, Paris in 1860. In the same year, Cordier was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III.

The present sculptures were exhibited at:
Facing the Other: Charles Cordier (1827-1905), Ethnographic Sculptor, Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec; and Dahesh Museum of Art, New York, 2004.

Laure de Margerie, Maria Vigil, Edouard Papet & Christine Barthe, Facing the Other: Charles Cordier (1827-1905), Ethnographic Sculptor, 2004, p. 75, no. 92 & 93 (ill.)

William and Marijke Bevan, Uckfield, England

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