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Study for the Four Parts of the World Supporting the Celestial Sphere

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux French

Not on view

In 1867, Carpeaux was invited by Gabriel Davioud, the city architect of Paris, to design a sculpture to top a fountain between the Luxembourg Gardens and the Paris Observatory. This plaster model reflects his composition, which drew upon well-known iconography to represent the four continents as female figures whose twisting bodies suggest the rotation of the earth. Facing us is Africa, who on the completed fountain appeared with a broken shackle around one ankle — a reference to the recent emancipation of Black people across the Atlantic world. This figure is followed clockwise by Asia, Europe, and America. Their poses reflect the fountain’s final composition, in which their upraised arms support a celestial sphere emblazoned with the signs of the zodiac. Only the faces of Europe and America are articulated here. Carpeaux made the figures of Africa and Asia after living models in his studio.

Study for the Four Parts of the World Supporting the Celestial Sphere, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, Valenciennes 1827–1875 Courbevoie), Plaster, French

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