CORDIER, Charles-Henri-Joseph
(b. 1827, Cambrai, d. 1905, Algiers)

Said Abdullah of the Mayac, Kingdom of the Darfur (Sudan)

Bronze, height 51 cm (with base)
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Cordier submitted a plaster cast of the bust of an African visitor to Paris to the Salon of 1848, and two years later he again entered it as a bronze. A young African woman served as the model for the companion piece in 1851.

Sculpted images of African men and women were rarely shown in public galleries before the 19th century, but Charles Cordier's plaster Bust of Said 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.

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