From Victoria Napolitano

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux EUROPEAN ART

This sculpture reverses the power dynamic between sitter and artist that underlies commissioned portraits. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux created a faithful yet sexualized likeness from a living model, represented as an enslaved woman bound with ropes. The bust was based on a figure representing Africa—one of four female nudes that would personify the continents in a Paris fountain (see illustration). Although Carpeaux completed the bust twenty years after France freed the enslaved African people across its empire, he acknowledged the lingering role of slavery in the inscription, which translates "Why born a slave?"