Woman of African Descent
On View: Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, 1st Floor
For his last major commission, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, the greatest and best-known sculptor of Second Empire France, created the figural grouping of the four continents for the Fountain of the Observatory in the Luxembourg Gardens. A Negress represents the sculptor's careful ethnographic study for the personification of Africa. Carpeaux included specific allusions to slavery in A Negress: he added the ropes that bind the torso and an inscription, which reads "Pourquoi naître esclave" (Why born a slave?). France had freed its slaves in the colonies in 1848, but the bust A Negress, executed in 1868, referred as well to the recent Emancipation Proclamation of the United States.
The marble version of this work was widely praised when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1869 and was purchased by Emperor Napoleon III.
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) (show scale)
Incised back of plaster base: "J-B Carpeaux 1868"
Incised on front of base: "Pourquoi nâitre esclave"
Gift of Benno Bordiga, by exchange and Mary Smith Dorward Fund
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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
overall, 1993.83a-b_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2015
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