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Why Born Enslaved!

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux French

Not on view

This small version of Why Born Enslaved! is the original plaster model from which other reduced-scale replicas were produced. Carpeaux coated its surface with semitranslucent layers of umber pigment that suggest the appearance of brown skin. The replication and sale of Why Born Enslaved! in miniature echoes the commodification of people of African descent that took place under slavery, reflecting the Western desire to possess and contain the Black body. Yet the sculpture’s unusual depiction of an enslaved woman’s defiant strength has also contributed to its enduring appeal. Reproductions of Why Born Enslaved! continue to be made and sold today.

Why Born Enslaved!, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, Valenciennes 1827–1875 Courbevoie), Plaster and paint, French

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