This bronze bust of a beautiful Algerian woman combines luxurious materials and innovative techniques to convey the vitality of natural appearance. Charles Cordier, an innovator in polychrome or “color” sculpture, employed a new electrolytic process to silver plate the exposed skin, which was then chemically oxidized to an ebony patina and enriched with a coat of lacquer. Traditional chasing traces a floral pattern on the silvered blouse, while the striped scarf features gilding and a deep green attained through achemical patina. Cordier knew his model; she was his neighbor in the Kasbah during his year-long stay in Algeria in 1856. The Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris funded his journey as ethnographic research. Cordier’s mission was to study “types of indigenous peoples,” and the work he produced from this and subsequent travels constitute an insightful—and fully sympathetic—gallery of the diverse people and cultures beyond European borders.

From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Charles Cordier, French, 1827-1905
  • Mauresque Noire (Black Moorish Woman)
Date 1856
Medium Bronze, silvered, gilt, black, brown and green patina
Dimensions Overall: 28 3/4 × 17 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (73 × 44.5 × 26 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Jill Ford Murray Fund and Mary Adelaide Hester Fund
Accession Number 2012.14
Department European Sculpture and Dec Arts
On View Modern C233, Level 2 (see map)
(Sotheby's, London, England);
2012-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
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