Lot 27
  • 27

Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier
  • La Juive d'Alger (The Jewess of Algiers)
  • partially enamelled bronze, silvered patina, and yellow marble, on a yellow marble socle
the yellow marble components and the glazed eyes are later replacements


Private collection, United States


L. de Margerie and E. Papet, Facing the Other: Charles Cordier (1827-1905) Ethnographic Sculptor, exh. cat., Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2004, p. 184, no. 336


The yellow marble elements and the glazed eyes are later additions. There are some areas of fill and small inserts where the marble joins the bronze. Otherwise the condition of the bust is good, with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There is some oxidation and minor rubbing to the silvered bronze, including to the face and neck. There is also some minor tarnishing in areas, such as around the lips. There are a few very small scratches, including to the proper right cheek, where there are also some small specks of residue. There is a slightly open but stable, probably original, joint to the hair and headdress at the front on the proper left side. There is wear to the enamel, including losses which have been painted in. There are some air bubbles to the enamel in areas, consistent with the material. There is a printed paper label at the back of the socle. There is veining to the marble throughout, consistent with the material.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In the summer of 1856 the sculptor Charles Cordier spent six months living and working in Algeria. His fascination with ethnography led him to visit the French colony, with the express intention of reproducing ‘the different types that right now are merging into one and the same people.’ Cordier settled into a native quarter of the Casbah in Algiers and began creating studies. At the start of the French possession of Algeria in 1830, twenty percent of the population of the city of Algiers was Jewish. It had grown further in the intervening years, making the inclusion of a Jewish Algerian subject an obvious choice for Cordier. His Juive d’Alger faithfully records the unique beauty of a particular woman, rather than a generic type. In the present version the intricacies of her costume are enhanced with enamelling and the bronze head and torso are set into shoulders made from Algerian onyx marble, a material which Cordier discovered during his trip and used frequently thereafter.

Whilst the contemporary vogue for Orientalism helped establish Cordier, his work stood out from the overwhelmingly decorative representations of the genre as an almost scientific study of physiognomy and costume. Cordier’s lengthy trips abroad and studies from life gave his works an authenticity and authority which few could rival. His originality was also felt in his use of colour and mixed materials. Cordier’s technical mastery of casting, carving, enamelling and patinating was extraordinary. The finished effect was one of great opulence and luxury. His work was avidly collected by wealthy art lovers across Europe, including Napoleon III and Queen Victoria.

The Juive d’Alger was first exhibited in London at the International Exhibition in 1862 and at the Paris Salon the following year. The present bust is recorded by Jeannine Durand-Révillon and Laure de Margerie in their Catalogue Raisonné written for the 2004 Cordier Exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Another version of the bust is held by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and featured on the cover of their important 1997 exhibition Colour in Sculpture.

S. Lami, Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs de l’École Francaise, Paris, 1914, vol. 1, p. 420; J. Durand-Revillon, ‘Un promoteur de la sculpture polychrome sous le Second Empire, C.-H.-J. Cordier (1827-1905) in Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art française, Paris, 1982, pp. 181-198; A. Blühm ed., The Colour of Sculpture, 1840-1910, exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 1997, pp. 170-4