Gaudez entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1862 where he was a pupil of the noted sculptor François Jouffroy. He made his Salon debut two years later. He continued to exhibit his work regularly in public exhibitions and in addition to numerous honors he won Gold Medals at the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and 1890. Gaudez's output was prolific and his sculptural oeuvre encompassed a wide range of subjects from literary characters to mythological figures.
The present work displays all of the elements of a finely cast polychrome sculpture, a category of art which by the 1860's was gaining acceptance by the critics and merited its own class in both the Salon and Exposition Universelle. Although it was at this time that polychrome sculpture became increasingly fashionable, its acceptance did not come without some resistance. The puritan ideals of the 18th Century, that sculpture can only be white as it was in ancient Greek art, was refuted by the discussion of Phidias' monumental gold and ivory statue Athena and Parthenos, in John Stuart and Nicholas Revett's work entitled Antiquities of Athens, which was published as early as 1762. Although this work introduced evidence that polychrome technique was not only utilized but favored in ancient Greece, art historians of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries were quick to accuse the great Phidias of lacking taste. By 1845 the great patron of the arts in France, Duc de Luynes, was commissioning Charles Simart to reconstruct Phidias' Athena and Parthenos for the stairwell at Château de Dampierre. He would place it immediately in front of Ingres' famous fresco, Golden Age.
The 19th Century was a time of great experimentation, as well as a time for change. In painting, great advances were made in compositional structures and color combinations, and a large variety of subject matter was available to the artists. Nevertheless, '[the experts] consciously ignored the common ground of time and space, and continued to isolate painting and sculpture from one and other' (A. Bluhm, The Collector of Sculpture, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 14). Until John Gibson's Tinted Venus in 1854, it was very rare for a sculptor to receive positive criticism with a polychrome statue. Even Cordier, who was honored with major commissions such as the Paris Opéra, was often attacked by critics for his bravura. It would be the Second Empire's love of luxury that would create the perfect environment for the production, enjoyment and appreciation of polychrome sculpture.
The subject matter of the present work, a Middle Eastern beauty, would have been a subject much in vogue in imperial France, and would have allowed Gaudez to indulge in a wide range of decorative embellishments and colors. As a result of the alliance of fine art to industry, a revolutionary breed of sculptors was introduced to technical innovations such as faster casting methods and a larger range of colored patinas. Gaudez's use of red cold paint, mixed with gilt highlights throughout the figure's vest, belt, necklace and headdress enable him to give a greater sense of depth and texture. This technique sets off the young woman's garments from her skin that has itself been enriched with Gaudez's use of a deep brown patina.