The French artist Charles Cordier (1825-1905) was famed for his orientalist and ethnographic sculpture.
He held the post of ethnographic sculptor to the Natural History museum in Paris and also made a number of trips to Africa.
Cordier was also notably an exponent of polychrome mixedmedia sculpture, combining bronze with coloured marbles, silvering and gilding.
Two bronze busts of north African subjects by Cordier were keenly contested in a sale of decorative arts from the 16th to 19th century held by Ader (28% buyer’s premium) on December 17 in Paris.
The finely chiselled busts were made as the result of trips to Algeria in 1856 and Egypt in 1866 and were the master models from which subsequent versions were cast. Both had been kept by a branch of Cordier’s family.
One bust of an Arabe d’el Aghouat was executed in c.1856, the year Cordier made his second trip to Algeria between April and October. He exhibited a bronze version at the Salon the following year and another mixed-media version in bronze and marble/onyx is now in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Other copies of the Arab d’el Aghouat are known, all different, featuring elements in marble or marble and porphyry.
The 19in (48cm) high brown patinated bronze master cast offered at Ader, set on a blackened wood socle, was pursued to €360,000 (£307,690), far in excess of a €20,000-30,000 guide. It sold to a French phone bidder.
The other bust depicted a Cheik arabe du Caire. In 1866 Cordier made a trip to Egypt from January to September funded partly by a state grant and partly by the sale of part of his studio at the Hôtel Drouot the previous year.
He brought back seven plaster casts of heads including the Cheik arabe du Caire and the following year exhibited a bronze version at the Exposition Universelle.
Nine different versions are known apart from the now unlocated plaster, most paired with a sculpture of the Juive d’Algiers.
The unpublished Ader example, which stands 18in (47cm) high and, like the Arabe d’el Aghouat, is set on a blackened wood socle, was also estimated at €20,000-30,000 but was contested to €120,000 (£102,565) selling to a foreign collector.