Woman of African Descent
This sculpture reverses the power dynamic between sitter and artist that underlies commissioned portraits. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux created a faithful yet sexualized likeness from a living model, represented as an enslaved woman bound with ropes. The bust was based on a figure representing Africa—one of four female nudes that would personify the continents in a Paris fountain (see illustration). Although Carpeaux completed the bust twenty years after France freed the enslaved African people across its empire, he acknowledged the lingering role of slavery in the inscription, which translates "Why born a slave?"
Plaster with patina; red stone base
a: 13 3/4 x 9 1/4 x 7 in. (34.9 x 23.5 x 17.8 cm)
b: 9 x 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 in. (22.9 x 31.8 x 31.8 cm)
plaster with base: 43.5 lb. (19.73kg) (show scale)
Incised back of plaster base: "J-B Carpeaux 1868"
Incised on front of base: "Pourquoi nâitre esclave"
This item is not on view
Gift of Benno Bordiga, by exchange and Mary Smith Dorward Fund
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license
. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply.
Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please contact email@example.com
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, 1827-1875). Woman of African Descent, 1868. Plaster with patina; red stone base, a: 13 3/4 x 9 1/4 x 7 in. (34.9 x 23.5 x 17.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Benno Bordiga, by exchange and Mary Smith Dorward Fund, 1993.83a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1993.83a-b_SL3.jpg)
overall, 1993.83a-b_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2015
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.