Title: Jewish from Algiers.
Author : CORDIER Charles (1827 - 1905)
Dimensions: Height 91 - Width 64
Technique and other indications: Bronze, enameled bronze, marble, onyx and porphyry
Storage location: Museum of Fine Arts website
Contact copyright: © Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Troyes - Photo J.-M. Protte
Picture reference: D.879.2
© Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Troyes - Photo J.-M. Protte
Publication date: April 2012
After Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign (1798-1801) and the start of the conquest of Algeria (1830), France and Great Britain gradually extended their influence in North Africa. Continuing on his ethnographic momentum, a few years later he made this Jewess of Algiers.
The use of a bust form for this portrait of a woman hardly deviates Charles Cordier from the classical tradition, nor does the pose of the model with her head tilted slightly to the right. The use of polychromy represents a more important innovation, with a skilful assembly of different stones, marble, onyx and porphyry, and bronze for the head, which is enamelled for the headdress and the dress. But above all, like his other busts of Algerians, Cordier has endeavored to render the physiognomy as much as the costume of his model in all their particularism and details. This Jewess from Algiers thus allows us to admire the meticulous restitution of the garment, in particular thanks to the work of the enamel.
"The beautiful is not peculiar to a privileged race; I have expressed the idea of the ubiquity of beauty in the artistic world. Every race has its beauty which differs from other races, ”wrote Charles Cordier. From his first portrait of a black African, Saïd Abdallah, of the Mayac tribe, kingdom of Darfur, and in his figures of Algerians, the artist knew how to restore the nobility of character of his models, by enhancing their exoticism, far from the contemptuous considerations which often prevailed. By choosing a woman to represent the Jewish community of Algeria, he was undoubtedly sacrificing the widespread image of a "Hebrew beauty" (the expression is from Théophile Gautier), mysterious and distant. In this case, it is the extremely classic features of this figure that are striking, giving substance to the idea, often expressed by travelers, of a Biblical Antiquity which has remained alive in the East.
Study in partnership with the Museum of Art and History of Judaism
Charles Cordier, 1827-1905: the other and the elsewhere, Paris, Musée d'Orsay, 2004.Peter BENSON MILLER, “A scientific orientalism: ethnology, anthropology and slavery”, in Orientalism in Europe, from Delacroix to Kandinsky, Brussels, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, and Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 2010-2011, p.115-131.Nicole SAVY, Les Juifs des romantiques, Paris, Belin, 2010. The Jews in Orientalism, Paris, Museum of Art and History of Judaism / Skira Flammarion, 2012
To cite this article
Nicolas FEUILLIE, "Jewess of Algiers"