Why Born Enslaved!

You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

Although officially abolished in France since 1848, slavery remained a hotly contested issue in Carpeaux’s time as it remained legal or tolerated in various countries around the world.


One of the most powerful expressions of abolitionist sentiment in the visual arts, Why Born Enslaved! depicts an African woman bound by ropes and looking defiantly upward. The ropes press painfully into her breasts; her torn blouse alludes to the violence responsible for her condition. The original, polychromed surface is covered with complex, nuanced hatchings and subtle modeling. Evidence indicates that this masterpiece of 19th-century French sculpture served as the master model for numerous casts in other museum collections.
Why Born Enslaved!

Why Born Enslaved!


Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux

(French, 1827–1875)

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.