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Study of a Woman for “Why Born Enslaved!"

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux French

Not on view

Carpeaux modeled Why Born Enslaved! while working on preparatory sketches for the allegorical figure of Africa on his fountain sculpture, The Four Parts of the World Supporting a Celestial Sphere. This remarkable clay sketch provides the most direct surviving visual record of the unnamed Black woman who worked as the sculptor’s model for both the bust and fountain figure. Fingerprints and toolmarks from Carpeaux’s rapid sculpting make the artist’s hand palpable as he sought to capture his sitter’s vitality and haunted expression in clay. Although her identity remains unknown, as this sketch makes evident, the model for Why Born Enslaved! was a compelling contributor in Carpeaux’s studio.

Study of a Woman for “Why Born Enslaved!", Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, Valenciennes 1827–1875 Courbevoie), Unbaked clay, French

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