A superb Sudanese turned up at the studio. Within a fortnight I did his bust and sent it to the Salon, feeling quite sure that it would be accepted. Just then the Revolution of 1848 burst out, and the jury was democratically elected. Trembling, I got up my nerve to send in the Sudanese bust anyway, and it was a revelation to the art world. Standing in front of it, Pradier said: "Who did this? Here is a fellow who will be a sculptor!" My teacher [François Rude], who was a member of the jury, stepped forward and said: "My student, Charles Cordier." Some people turned away but this did not interfere with success. Indeed I won an honourable mention.
This was how Cordier remembered the creation of Saïd Abdallah's bust in his memoirs, from his very first exhibition at the Paris Salon of 1848. The vogue for Orientalist subjects was strong, and Cordier went on to create many popular busts and figures in this genre. He also took an interest in European subjects detailing national types and costumes. In 1851 Cordier was given the post of ethnographic sculptor to the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle, which he held for 15 years. During this time he made government sponsored tours of Algeria, Greece, and Egypt. The present bust, with its silvered and coloured patinas, is a particularly fine cast of Cordier's impressive model.
Charles Cordier: l'autre et l'ailleurs, exh. cat. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, 2004, pp. 15-21 and cat. nos. 470-521