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Bust of a Woman

Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier French

Not on view

Produced prior to his first trip to North Africa, this bust exemplifies Cordier’s practice of creating fantasy portraits of colonized subjects. Executed as a pendant to Bust after Seïd Enkess, it debuted under the derogatory title Négresse des colonies (Negress from the Colonies). It later came to be widely known as Vénus africaine (African Venus), a title that marries the erotic characteristics associated with the Greek goddess of love and beauty to an exoticized depiction of the Black female body—portrayed here with a heavy-lidded gaze, bare shoulders, and drapery that nominally covers her breasts and navel. Numerous casts of the pair were produced for sale, some silvered and gilt to render them more colorful. The French state commissioned a pair for the ethnographic gallery of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Bust of a Woman, Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier (French, 1827–1905), Bronze, French

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