Bust of a black African woman and man by Charles Cordier.
(Orig-Titel: Bust of a Negro and a Negress)
by C. Cordier, Paris.
Charles Henri Joseph Cordier (1827-1905).
POLYCHROMY applied to sculpture has its strenuous advocates at the present day: in the accompanying subjects by the eminent sculptor M. Charles Cordier we have an illustration of that kind of colouring which is obtained principally by the application of various materials to one object. The two busts in our illustration are those of a negro of pure type and a negress of the colonies. They were both executed in onyx and bronze, the eyes being tinted and the ornaments gilt and coloured.
Their effect was very striking, and gave a good idea of the polylithie sculpture of the ancients and of the period of the Renaissance. Owing to the removal of one of the busts from the gallery, we were forced to take our photograph from a reproduction in bronze, gilt and coloured, executed by M. Lcrolle.
M. C. Cordier, who is distinguished for the originality and boldness of his genius, was born at Cambrai (Nord), in the year 1827, and at sixteen years of age was already working as a wood-carver at Lille. Subsequently he went to Paris, and although employed in carving some of the numerous stone ornaments which are to be seen on all the best Parisian houses, still found time to study in the schools. He was now, at the expense of his native “department,” placed in the atelier of Rude, a well-known sculptor, whose masterpiece is the fine bas-relief on the triumphal arch de VE toile. Rude was always remarkable for his antagonism to the course of study and the style affected by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and Cordier became thoroughly imbued with his master’s spirit.
Declining to reproduce over and over again the monotonous contours of Greek beauty, he sought for fresh inspiration in the picturesque and strongly-marked features of modern nations. His efforts were soon rewarded with success, and the Paris Museum of Natural History obtained a series of his works on the types of mankind; her Majesty the Empress also encouraging the young sculptor by her patronage.
Thenceforward M. Cordier felt he had a special mission; and M. Fould, then Minister of the Interior, commissioned M. Cordier to proceed first to Algeria, in order to study the characteristics of the various Arab tribes, and then to Greece and Italy; the result of which was the formation of a gallery containing seventy different types, which the sculptor had the happy idea of rendering more life-like by the adoption of different coloured marble, metals, and enamel, in which we think he has perfectly succeeded. Patrons were not wanting, and M. Cordier’s works were purchased by her Majesty the Empress, the Marquis Casariesa, C. Graham, Esq., of Frankfort; T. Baring, Esq., of London; Miss Burdett Coutts, and other well-known amateurs. Perhaps the finest works produced by M. Cordier arc four colossal caryatides of black slaves, in bronze, onyx, and silver, for the Baron Rothschild’s chateau of Ferrières. M. Cordier’s other works are a colossal statue of “France,” for Algeria; a bronze statue of Marshal Gérard, executed by national subscription in the year 1855; a statue of Duperac, for the new Louvre; St. John, for the tower of St. Jacques; and Ste. Clothilde, for the new Gothic church of Ste. Clothilde, at Paris.
It may be remembered that M. Cordier had an exhibition of some of his principal types of the human race in Pall Mall a year or two since: his enthusiasm has not declined for this particular branch of his art, and the formation of a complete collection of the principal types of mankind, arranged in regular order, is still the main object of his life. M. Cordier has large sympathies and quick perceptions; beauty and attractiveness come to him not under some received forms alone,—he sees them everywhere; nor does he endeavour to strike the spectator by the mere extravagance or eccentricity of his subjects. Some of his most remarkable works are modelled from a Greek source — not the conventional Greek of ancient times, but from the living descendants of the ancient Greeks, in whom, and amongst the Italians also, are still frequently to be seen, in youth especially, some of the most characteristic features of ancient sculpture.
We have to thank M. Cordier for having opened out a new path in which the talents of the sculptor may be exercised, and with having furnished fresh models capable of producing the burliest artistic effects.
Source: Masterpieces of industrial art & sculpture at the International exhibition, 1862 by John Burley Waring. London, Day & son, 1863.