It is undoubtedly throughout his sketches that we can best grasp the artist’s original expressive power. It is quite obvious here, where the earth tones suggesting the Chinese’s dress give it an impressionist touch, most innovative for its time. The face, seen in three-quarter profile, conveys an unusual strength, underlined by its intense gaze.
This Chinese was created by Carpeaux in 1868 from a live model to symbolize Asia in his project for the fountain of the avenue de l’Observatoire. It would be changed later on into a female Chinese so as to have it fit harmoniously with the final version of the monument. Considered by the sculptor as satisfactorily “completed”, it exists as a stand-alone work and was edited in various materials by the artist’s workshop as soon as 1872, then later, posthumously, by his family as from 1876. Our copy numbered 167 is one of the very first sculptures in the series.
Beyond its inherent quality, it has remained in an exceptional state of preservation.
Combining delicacy and strength, this sketch is of a bold modernity that makes it timeless.