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Kabyle Children (Enfants Kabyles)

Isidore-Alexandre-Augustin Pils

European Art

The well-respected military painter Isadore-Alexandre-Augustin Pils was commissioned to create a monumental painting (now lost) of Napoleon III’s 1860 reception of Arab chiefs in French Algeria. To prepare this piece of imperial pomp, Pils traveled to Algeria in 1861 and 1862, creating numerous preparatory sketches of the landscapes and people he saw. This sketch of two children from the Kabylie region likely dates from his time in the colony. Its rapid brushwork and careful attention to the children’s expressions lend it subtlety. The children in this sketch would have spent their lives under French colonial rule, including Napoleon III’s so-called reforms, which allowed Berber Algerians to become French citizens only if they renounced their Muslim religion.

Titus Kaphar: I think this is beautiful. . . . Her mouth being open as though she’s speaking is so telling. . . . We surely know this image and these people from the perspective of the folks on this side of the frame. Surely, her [mouth] being open doesn’t mean that we have some sort of recorded evidence of her thoughts and of her life and what she said in this particular moment. As we’re talking about how we wrestle with these images, as I said before, it requires some kind of historical revision, rewriting. Because she’s silenced.
MEDIUM Graphite and opaque watercolor on brown wove paper
DATES 1860s
DIMENSIONS Image: 9 1/2 × 9 7/16 in. (24.1 × 24 cm) sheet: 10 3/4 × 13 11/16 in. (27.3 × 34.8 cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS Stamped lower right (very faint, without ink)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Henry Wolf, Austin M. Wolf, and Hamilton A. Wolf
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Isidore-Alexandre-Augustin Pils (French, 1813–1875). Kabyle Children (Enfants Kabyles), 1860s. Graphite and opaque watercolor on brown wove paper, Image: 9 1/2 × 9 7/16 in. (24.1 × 24 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Henry Wolf, Austin M. Wolf, and Hamilton A. Wolf, 33.39 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 33.39_detail_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE detail, 33.39_detail_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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