Charles Henri Cordier
Acquired by The Detroit Institute of Art, USA
Signed ALGERS 1856 CH. CORDIER
Bronze with a rich dark brown, silvered, green and gilt patination
Height: 29.5 inches (75 cm)
Conceived and cast 1856
Charles Cordier was born in Cambrai and was, as a boy, apprenticed to a jeweller, which inspired the fine detailing and ornate use of multi patinas, enamel decoration and mixed medias for which he is so well known. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and then with the prominent sculptor Francois Rude. He exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon in 1847 and soon became fascinated by the nobility and elegance of the foreign races. This speciality combined perfectly with the French interest in their new colony Algeria and the fashionable “Beaux Ideal” of the Second Empire and gained him the commission from the Paris Museum of Natural History to produce busts for a special ethnographic gallery. He then travelled extensively, going to Algeria in 1856, Greece in 1858 and in 1866 Egypt, on an ethnographic mission sponsored by the French government.
La Mauresque Noire was part of Cordier’s first group of twelve portraits that form his presentation of a new type of ethnography. Exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1957, Cordier’s aspiration was to surpass the common romantic orientalist attitude to non-european races.
These works, often using mixed media and exotic patinations are highly sought after but produced in very small numbers as the quality of casting and finish was so high. Examples can be found in the Dahesh Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musée D’Orsay and the Courtauld Institute.