• La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • La Capresse des Colonies - Charles Henri Cordier, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
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La Capresse des Colonies

Charles Henri Cordier

(French, 1827-1905)

Signed Cordier.1861
Bronze with dark brown, silver and gilt patina
Height: 16" (40 cm)

Conceived in 1861 and cast within the artist's lifetime


Charles Cordier was born in Cambrai and was apprenticed as a boy to a jeweller. This experience fundamentally inspired the fine detailing, ornate and varying patinas, enamel decoration and mixed media of his later sculpture.

Cordier studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and then with François Rude. He exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon in 1847 and soon became fascinated by foreign races. This speciality combined perfectly with the French interest in their new colony Algeria and the fashionable Beaux Ideal of the Second Empire. He thus gained the commission to produce busts for a special ethnographic gallery in the Museum of Natural History in Paris, travelling extensively on a mission sponsored by the government, going to Algeria in 1856, Greece in 1858 and Egypt in 1866.

The first bust in his series of studies was entitled Saïd Abdallah de la Tribu du Dufour and dates to 1848. This date is relevant both in French history and in Cordier’s career, for on April 27 of that year the government passed the law abolishing slavery in France and its colonies. In his unpublished memoirs, Cordier links specifically this event to the development of his art, stating that "my art incorporated the reality of a whole new subject, the revolt against slavery and the birth of anthropology." International interest in Cordier’s sculpture was sublimated by the 2004 retrospective exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, Facing the Other: Charles Cordier, Ethnographic Sculpture.

C.Cordier, Capresse des Colonies, Musée d’Orsay

The present work, Capresse des Colonies, dates to 1861. The original concept of the piece mixed Algerian marbles with bronze-work to achieve the polychrome effect for which Cordier was renowned. Another version of the sculpture in marble and bronze is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection, New York.

The present cast is a reduction of the Orsay and Metropolitan Museum versions and it was produced shortly after in Cordier’s atelier – another similar bronze is part of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Massachussetts.

C. Cordier, Capresse des Colonies, Wellesley Museum

Compared to the piece in this American institution, the present cast elegantly displays Cordier’s desire to emulate the polychromy of his larger models. The dark patina of the figure’s skin contrasts the silver tones of her turban and vest. The addition of gilded jewellery develops this effect further. Moreover, the light chiselling on the figure’s skin enhances the vitality of the piece and together with the linear hatching of the vest and turban, demonstrates the great technical achievements of Cordier’s casting in his atelier.

TEFAF Maastricht 2019

March 16, 2019 - March 24, 2019

TEFAF Maastricht 2019 March 16, 2019 - March 24, 2019

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