Cro-Magnon and Khoi-San: Constant Roux's Racialized Relief Sculptures of Prehistoric Artists
Constant Roux's (1865-1942) relief sculptures depicting Stone Age humans, contemporary “primitives” and chimpanzees form a frieze around the Institute of Human Paleontology, which was founded in Paris by Prince Albert I of Monaco (1848-1922) in 1910. In addition to making a distinct statement about the scientific work done inside the institution they decorate, these sculptures highlight conceptions of race that were prevalent at the time. Of the two images of prehistoric artists that frame the building's entrance, the one on the left represents a Magdalenian “Caucasoid” creating a bison from the Font-de-Gaume cave, while the one on the right depicts an Aurignacian “Negroid” sculpting the so-called “Venus of Laussel.” These pendant bas-reliefs demonstrate the ways in which race informed the interpretation of fossil human remains and Paleolithic art in fin-de-siecle France, with a scientifically sanctioned racial hierarchy subtly, yet clearly, at work.
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