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A rare French colonial sculpture of a couple from the French 'West Indies', drinking Rum and Cocoa

 

The French Antilles or French Guyana, late 18th/early 19th century
 

The painted plaster figures with wood, glass and gilt braid, seated at a table, happily drinking and conversating, on a rectangular black base with four bun feet.

H. 20 x W. 27 x D. 18 cm 

Provenance:

Joseph-Armand Coudre la Coudrais (1751-before 1809) and thence by descent


Joseph-Armand came from a family of sailors and was captain of the Phénix and the L’aimable Rose, importing rum and cacao from the French West Indies.

So possibly Joseph-Armand himself commissioned this sculpture of the rum and cacao drinking couple in the French West Indies. His portrait is in the Musée de la Marine in Honfleur.

 

This sculpture makes one think of the dioramas made by Gerrit Schouten in Dutch Guyana/Surinam. Schouten’s clients were Europeans who visited Surinam for a shorter or longer period. Gerrit Schouten, whose mother was of mixed background and father a Dutchman, depicted the African slaves in Surinam almost exclusively while performing a slave dance, a du (see for an example Uit Verre Streken, June 2008, no. 8). Once or twice a year the enslaved on the plantations were allowed to make music, dance and dress up for two or three days. These du’s, which of course presented a very limited but colourful picture of “happy” slave life in Surinam, were very popular among tourists who afterwards ordered a diorama of a slave dance from Gerrit Schouten.