Cordier Charles Henri


Henri Joseph Charles Cordier, born November 1, 1827 in Cambrai and died April 29, 1905 in Algiers, was a French sculptor.
He used a technique dating back to Roman Antiquity, experimenting with polychrome marble such as onyx to embellish his bronze sculptures, representative of the orientalist style and eclecticism from the Second Empire.
Son of a pharmacist, Charles Cordier began his journey at the École des beaux-arts in Paris in 1846, introduced by the sculptor Jacques-Auguste Fauginet, but he did not stay there for long, as he started working the same year in the studio of his master François Rude. That year, he met with a former freed Sudanese slave turned professional model, Seïd Enkess, whose bust he produced in two weeks. This was the start of his ethnographic work. Its genre had the topicality of a new subject, the revolt against slavery, anthropology at its birth. From then on, he produced a large number of orientalist statues and in particular busts. The year of 1848, when slavery was abolished, he produced several series of portraits of Saïd Abdallah, de la tribu de Mayac, Royaume de Darfour, Nègre de Tombouctou and Nègre Nubien.
Queen Victoria purchased his bronze work during The Great Exhibition of 1851. From 1851, he sculpted a series of busts of Vénus africaine. His submissions to the 1853 Salon were a sensation. With his bronze busts of a femme Mongols ou Chinois (1853), he sought to obtain richer polychrome effects, a trend to which he remained faithful from then on, hence new colourful African busts such as the famous Nègre du Soudan (between 1856 and 1857), purchased by Napoleon III in 1857 for 3,000 francs and kept in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay.
Charles Cordier was the author of 617 listed works, including 365 ethnographic busts and 103 bourgeois portraits. He received a third-class medal at the Salon of 1851 and a second-class medal in 1853, and again in 1857. He was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour on August 6, 1860.
He was the father of the sculptor Henri Louis Cordier (1853-1926).

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