Ethnographic Sculpture and the Complexities of Race Presentation uri icon



  • The recent revival of Charles Cordier’s oeuvre by the Musée d’Orsay highlights the concept of ethnographic sculpture that the curators use to describe his and similar work. The purpose of this paper is to situate ethnographic sculpture in a larger and more complex discourse of racial difference circulating in France and its colonies around the turn of the twentieth century. By linking ethnographic sculpture to “colonial” art more generally, its cultural politics become evident, thereby revealing what was at stake for artists as they intervened in ongoing debates about colonialism. In particular, analyses of the representations of North Africa by Cordier, of Cambodia by Auguste Rodin, and of North Africa and Asia by the now largely forgotten sculptor Théodore Rivière will reveal how these artists each mobilized, re-inscribed, or countered colonial ideologies of French racial and cultural superiority.

date/time interval

  • February 10, 2010 - February 13, 2010