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Allegory of Africa

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi French

Not on view

This male figure, whose reclining posture recalls the pose of a Greco-Roman river god, is a personification of Africa. Earlier allegories of the continents relied upon symbols, such as the lion pelt seen here. Yet Bartholdi’s emphasis on the figure of Africa’s muscular body, facial features, and hair texture reflect the increasing prominence of pseudoscientific theories that saw physical appearance as evidence of racial difference. Later produced in commercial editions, this sculpture first appeared at the base of a fountain in Colmar, France, commemorating Admiral Armand Joseph Bruat, who oversaw the expansion of the French empire into Algeria and served as a colonial governor in the French Caribbean. The standing figure of Bruat towered above reclining personifications of Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas, recalling traditional representations of European rulers presiding over conquered lands and people.

Allegory of Africa, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (French, Colmar 1834–1904 Paris), Bronze, French

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