In 1867, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, who had completed the decoration of the Pavillon de Flore at the Louvre and created his masterpiece, The Dance, at the Opéra, received a order from the city of Paris for the Observatoire's fountain. The subject imposed, the four cardinal points, hardly inspired him because he did not want to "start over" for the hundred thousandth time the four caryatids leaned against and carrying a sphere. He found the idea of figures turning on themselves thinking about the rotation of the earth, which led him to evoke the different ethnic groups that populate it. The abolition of slavery in 1848 had aroused great enthusiasm.
The sculptor Charles Cordier presented at the Salon in 1848 a superb black bust, followed by many others: in 1861, his bust "Capresse des Colonies" for example, exhibited at the Louvre, was acquired by Napoleon III. It would be the same woman who posed as a model nine years later for Carpeaux. During his studies for the fountain, he performed busts of "La Negresse","La Chinoise" and "l' Européenne".
The marble of the bust of the "Negress", exhibited at the 1869 Salon, was acquired by the Emperor and placed at the Castle of Saint-Cloud. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux kept the property of his model, which he often produced in all materials (marble, bronze, terracotta, plaster). The Sèvres Manufacture offered it as a biscuit. The celebrity of this model was the beauty of the expression. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux put his knowledge of movement at the service of an idea. Contained by links, the bust remains motionless, only the neck, the face and the hair escape the obstacles. Through their oblique twisting, they express the revolt contained in the simple question: Why be born a slave?
Reproduction in patinated resin
Height: 35 cm.
Width: 23 cm.
Depth: 21 cm.
Artistic current: XIXth century
Artist: Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875).
Museum: Paris - Museum of Orsay