Nationalism and Genocides


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Arshile Gorky and his Mother by Arshile Gorki (Whitney Museum of American Art, NY)

Armenian-American Arshile Gorky’s mother died of starvation. He committed suicide at the age of 44.

Anatolia and Pan-Islamism

  • Anatolia (Turkey)
  • Pan-Islamism: Muslims only
  • the millet system: tolerance

(I removed the video showing Armenian women crucified or impaled by a sword. This video is on YouTube under Armenian Genocide.)

Armenians lived in Anatolia (most of today’s Turkey), in the Ottoman Empire, of which there remains modern Turkey with Ankara as its capital. Constantinople was renamed Istanbul in 1928, after the Turkish War of Independence (1917-1923). The Turks had become Muslims in the years and centuries that followed the fall of Constantinople or defeat of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453. So the Armenians, Orthodox Christians, fell to an ideology which, in their case, is called Pan-Islamism: Muslims only. Such an ideology stems from the concept of nationalism, but it is nationalism carried to an extreme. Genocides occur for other reasons, but the aim in the genocide of Armenians was to eliminate Christian Orthodoxy in Anatolia or Turkey.

After Sultan Mehmed II defeated the Byzantine Empire, in 1453, he continued conquering Christian lands. However, the millet system protected the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Jews. Mehmed II the Conqueror advocated tolerance, which was no longer possible at the end of the 19th century, when nationalism flourished. Christian Armenians and other Christians were annihilated, almost.


Mehmed II, the Conqueror by Gentile Bellini (National Gallery, UK)



Sultan Mehmed II and the Patriarch Gennadios II. Mehmed II allowed the Ecumenical Patriarchate to remain active after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Congress of Vienna and Nationalism

  • the fate of France
  • the partitioning of Europe
  • the growth of nationalism

Nationalism grew into a dominant ideology in the aftermath of the Congress of Vienna (1815) when the Great Powers negotiated the fate of France after the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. (See Congress of Vienna, Wikipedia.) During the Congress of Vienna, the Great Powers carved up Europe and did so quite arbitrarily, trivializing smaller countries. These were pawns. This kind of high-handedness prefigures the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. (See Treaty of London, Wikipedia.) Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s François Georges-Picot partitioned the Ottoman Empire before its defeat. The Allied Powers and their associates expected to defeat the Central Powers. Turkey was a Central Power. It was defeated and Constantinople, occupied.


The Allied Powers and the Central Powers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nationalism and Nativism

Nationalism is normal. One is proud when a fellow citizen wins an Olympic medal, or is awarded a Nobel Prize. During the 19th century, Italian city-states unified. One of the founders of a unified Italy and the leading figure of Italian unification, the Risorgimento, is Giuseppe Garibaldi (4 July 1807 in Nice – 2 June 1882 on Caprera). Garibaldi was a giant. The many German states were also unified in the 19th century under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898), a Prussian.

But nationalism ceases to be acceptable when it advocates nativism or Muslims only, Jews only, Christians only, thereby fostering rampant racism or dictating ethnic cleansing, the very worst. The Armenian Genocide was ethnic cleansing. (See List of ethnic cleansings, Wikipedia.) A purer Islam could not share its territory with Christian Armenians. In fact, Armenia had been the first Christian Nation, in 301 CE, a date that precedes the First Council of Nicaea, held in 325 CE, when Roman Emperor Constantine I founded the Christian Church as an institution. Byzantium was renamed Constantinople.

However, although the Ottoman Empire perished, Turkey survived and, by extension, so did the Ottomans, but not as an empire. The Ottoman Empire had been defeated at the conclusion of World War I, but the Turkish War of Independence (19 May 1919 – 24 July 1923) followed World War I and the Turks were victorious. The Turks were Muslims. Consequently, despite the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there is a sense in which the Ottoman Empire did not die altogether. However, other countries, Arab and/or Muslim countries, were partitioned by the signatories of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, or Triple Entente. We know about the French and British protectorates, such as mandatory Palestine.

The Hamidian Massacres

  • Zionism
  • the Balfour Declaration of 1917
  • Nazism and the Holocaust
  • the Creation of Israel and the exodus of Palestinians

The persecution of Armenians began before the Genocide which took place between 1915 and the end of the Turkish War of Independence. Pan-Islamism could have led to the persecution of another ethnic or religious group, such as the Jews, but Christians were targeted.

Ironically, Theodor Herzlthe founder of Zionism, applauded when Sultan Abdul Hamid II (21 September 1842 – 10 February 1918) expressed a wish to eradicate Armenians and sought the support of the Jews.

“The Zionist leader Theodor Herzl responded ecstatically to Abdul Hamid II‘s personal request to harness ‘Jewish power’ in order to undermine the widespread sympathy felt for Armenians in Europe.” (See Hamidian Massacres, Wikipedia.)

The massacre of Armenians was not Mr Herzl’s real intention. Zionists wanted to create a Jewish state, Jews only. “Herzl acknowledged that the arrangement with the Abdul Hamid was temporary and his services were in exchange for bringing about a more favorable Ottoman attitude toward Zionism. ‘Under no circumstances,’ he wrote, ‘are the Armenians to learn that we want to use them in order to erect a Jewish state.’” (See Hamidian Massacres, Wikipedia.)

Later, the idea of a purer nation, Aryans only, inspired Adolf Hitler and his Nazis. The result was the Holocaust, the death, in gas chambers especially, of 6 million Jews, perhaps the worst genocide ever after the genocide of Amerindians. The Armenian Genocide  followed other massacres and foreshadowed the Holocaust.

As we have seen, under the Balfour Declaration (1917), the British favoured a national homeland for the Jewish population and that national homeland would be in Palestine. Such was not the view of Zionists. They also wanted a purer Jewish homeland, a homeland inhabited by Jews only. The creation of Israel (14 May 1948) led to a war and to the exodus of Palestinians. It has yet to end. (See 1948 Palestinian Exodus, Wikipedia.)


Palestinian Woman, Jug and Child  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Map of Turkey


Ottoman Empire at its zenith

 The Armenian Massacres of 1894–1896

  • the Massacres of Diyarbakir
  • Armenians and Assyrians
  • the Batak massacre (Bulgarians)

Under Abdul Hamid II, the Hamidian massacres, the worst massacre of Armenian and Assyrian people were the Massacres of Diyarbakir (1895). Some 25,000 Christians were killed brutally.

As countries conquered by the Ottomans, Greece (Greek War of Independence), Bulgaria, etc. fought for their independence, there were other massacres. These were merciless. One of the worst massacres was the Batak Massacre of Bulgarians which took place in 1876 at the beginning of the April Uprising. I have mentioned the Batak Massacre in an earlier post. Bulgarians were the victims of Bashi-Basouk, irregulars or mercenaries in the Ottoman Army. The image below, by Russian artist Konstantin Makovsky (20 June 1839 —17 September 1915), shows Bashi-Basouk enjoying the spoils of war. 


The Bulgarian Martyresses by Konstantin Makovsky  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Armenia: once a kingdom

A Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity) had existed between 321 BCE and 428 CE. At its apex, under king Tigranes the Great, its territory consisted of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It fell under Rome’s sphere of influence at the Battle of Tigranocerta, in 66 BCE. As of 66 BCE, the story of Armenians is intertwined with that of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. It came under Ottoman rule in 1453, when Mehmed II defeated the Byzantine Empire. Greek scholars fled to Italy, inaugurating the Renaissance, but other Orthodox Christians were less fortunate.


In short, the Armenians fell to a faith and state ideology, which is the ideology underlying ISIL’s enslavement, rape, underage marriages, forced pregnancies, torture, and the worst of deaths. Syrians and Iraqis try to find safe towns in the Middle and Near East. Many have fled to Turkey, but they’ve nowhere to go. Faith and state is also the ideology of Saudi Arabia.

As for Israel, Netanyahu is building walls to protect Israel from Palestinians and is encouraging all Jews to settle in their “promised land,” Israel: faith and state.

I’ve been extremely busy.

Love to everyone. ♥ 

Sources and Resources


Arshile Gorky (15 April 1904 – 21 July 1948)


“Master Bill” by Arshile Gorky (Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
27 September 2016






“Cowards,” says Ban Ki-moon


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The Elephant Clock, from The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by al-Jazari (MMA, NY)

“Cowards,” says Ban Ki-moon

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations is perfectly right. They are cowards!  Aleppo is dying and a convoy of supplies for 78,000 persons was bombed the moment the cease fire was lifted, killing twenty persons. To make matters worse, on Tuesday, medical workers were killed. Humans, homes, and architectural gems, some a thousand years old, are being destroyed. On Wednesday, the attacks continued.

India and the Middle East are the areas where numerous Indo-European languages started to develop. Knowledge of the Near to Middle East may survive and so may a large number of people, but crimes are committed by terrorists, autocrats, and other villains against the innocent population of Syria and other nations of the Near and Middle East. This process goes on and on. Humanitarian relief is sent, but demented individuals prevent supplies from reaching their destination. No, there is no excuse for ISIL militants to behave like barbarians, nor is there any excuse for Bashar al-Assad to allow his forces to wreak havoc on Syria. He is blaming the US for the recent attacks.

As for Donald Trump, if elected to the  presidency of his country, he will not allow Muslims into the United States. He has made this clear. Surely he must know that the plight of Syrians and Iraqis is genuine. If he doesn’t, shame on him! A candidate to the presidency of a country should be well informed.

A Social Contract

When the day comes, if it comes, when Donald Trump is elected to the presidency of the United States, liberty will collapse and the French will have to take the famous statue back to France: Lady Liberty. The America Mr Trump wants to see reborn is a country that will not enter into a decent social contract with its people. In all likelihood, Mr Trump will abolish the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. How can there be progress?

Every human being should be protected, from birth until death. Even the poor have the right to be treated if an illness, possibly fatal, befalls them. Insurance companies? It seems to have worked, but one has to be very careful. Insurance companies are businesses. They seek a profit. They’ll destroy your life and will not own up to what they have done. Some of you do not know my story, which I can repeat, but not now and not here. Not as I write about great atrocities and the worst of genocides.

The Armenian Genocide

A few days ago, I found information about the Armenian Genocide in a French internet publication I read regularly: Hérodote. Young Armenian women were crucified in the same manner Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Others may have discovered the same story. Information is now posted under several entries on the internet. A video has been inserted in the Wikipedia entry on the Armenian Genocide. One can see a row of crosses and young women, girls, dying.

Le Génocide des Arméniens (Hérodote) FR

The Armenian Genocide EN


Forced pregnancies as a violation of Human Rights

  • genocides
  • Raphael Lemkin

In 1915 in particular, the year the Armenian genocide began, young girls were also raped, some to death. Many of these young women got pregnant. It is at that time in history that forced pregnancies were first seen as a violation of Human Rights, which is precisely what they were and remain. Rape is a crime, even in wedlock.

The term genocide was coined by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin who lost 49 relatives in the Holocaust. The Holocaust went on for six years, which is a longer period of time than the duration of the Armenian Genocide, but it would appear that the Armenian Genocide inspired Hitler. (See Armenian Genocide and Raphael Lemkin, Wikipedia.)

Donald Trump and Torture

ISIL beheads, mutilates, burns people to death, drowns them. It enslaves, rapes, and also crucifies some of its victims. ISIL does not crucify in the same way Jesus was crucified, but at some point the victim can no longer breathe.

Donald Trump would not go that far and it could be that Mr Trump was not speaking seriously, but he did say he approved of torture. A candidate to the presidency of the United States cannot condone torture. He’s disqualified himself.

Here is a quotation from the New York Review of Books:

Can the Unthinkable Happen?
Michael Tomasky

“Trump’s false pronouncements are either believed or blithely ignored by a substantial chunk of the electorate. But we’ve seen no evidence that he’s persuaded a majority. Could that change?”


 (Photo credit: The New York Review of Books)

It could be that Mr Trump will be elected.

I will close here and hope a permanent ceasefire is about to be declared.

Love to everyone

Sources and Resources


Samuel Barber‘s Adagio for Strings


© Micheline Walker
22 Septembre 2016


Blogger Recognition Award


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I apologize for not acknowledging receipt of this nomination yesterday. I had to keep appointments.

First I would like to thank Dear Kitty1.Some Blog for nominating me for the blogger recognition award displayed above. I do not think I deserve an award at this point because I haven’t posted articles frequently for several months. However, I have worked carefully on those I published. There  are rules to follow.

  1. The first rule attached to this nomination is to thank my colleague most sincerely. She is a person I have admired from the moment I started blogging and interacting with other bloggers.
  2. The second rule is to tell how by blog started. This rule could lead to my writing several posts, but I will keep it short. I started blogging when I realized US President Obama was criticized for the best things he did. He has helped to modernize the United States, bring it up to today’s societal standards. If Donald Trump replaces him, I fear very much that he will do away with Obamacare. He’ll protect the rich.
  3. The third rule is to give advice to bloggers. The Google rating of my post is not good which has nothing to do with content. It’s presentation. I have learned to insert images and videos into my posts, but I do not know how to customize my blog. Filling your sidebar is important. As well, keep a formula. For instance a picture and a few words can make for a beautiful post. But my two pieces of advice would be:
    – To make access to your blog as easy as possible.
    – To make your blog easy to navigate is also crucial.
  4. The fourth rule is to thank the person who nominated you and to provide a link to the person. Thank you very much dear Kitty.
  5. The fifth rule is to nominate 15 bloggers. So there we go.

My nominees are:

Ramblings (derrickjknight) (1)
I didn’t have my glasses on (ksbeth) (2)
El Espacio de Chus (3)
Vulturesti (4)
Eyes on Europe & the Middle East (5)
La Audacia de Aquiles (6)
Poetic Parfait (7)
ReadinPleasure (8)
Live and Learn (David Kanigan) (9)
Natuurfreak (10)
Mustard Seed Budget (11)
Another Day Another Story (12)
Pedrol (13)
In Saner Thought (14)
Viages al Fondo del Alsa (15)


Each nominee will receive a notification. You need not thank me and you are free to decline this nomination. If you choose to accept it, the rules are:

  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog.
  • Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to.

I thank dear Kitty once again.  

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, 2nd Movement


© Micheline Walker
21 September 2016







An Older Orient


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Mehmed II, the Conqueror by Gentile Bellini (National Gallery, London)


Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent by Titian, c. 1530 (Wikipedia)

An Older Orient

  • the Silk Road
  • the Spice Trade
  • Mehmed II the Conqueror
  • portraits

The West has an older Orient, older than the paintings of 19th-century artists, lured by East, but depicing a Eurocentric Orient, a colonized Orient.

Our older Orient is, for instance, Marco Polo’s Orient, the Orient of merchants. It is as traders that Europeans, the West, first interacted with the East. That Orient would lead to the age of discovery and, eventually, to colonialism. However, that Orient, the Far East, mesmerized Venetian merchant Marco Polo (1254 – 8-9 January  1324) who travelled the silk road (114 BCE – 1450s CE), a pathway that had been used for more than a thousand years and which Marco Polo probably improved.The silk road took Marco Polo to China. He met Kublai Khan (23 September  1215 – 18 February 1294), the Conqueror who established the Yuan Dynasty and was the first Emperor of China. In this case, the conqueror was Kublai Khan, the East, not Marco Polo. Marco Polo served Kublai Khan for twenty years.

Consequently, had a European artist made a portrait of Kublai Khan, it would have been the portrait of a conqueror as is the portrait of Mehmed II the Conqueror or Mehmet II (30 March 1432 – 3 May 1481) made by Gentile Bellini (c. 1429 – 23 February 1507) in 1480 and featured at the top of this post. Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, the current Istanbul, in 1453 vastly expanding the Muslim world to include Eastern Europe. In 1479, Venice summoned Gentile Bellini, a portraitist of the School of Venice, to travel to Constantinople and make a portrait Sultan Mehmed II, or Mehmet II.

The Wikipedia entry on Gentile Bellini describes Gentile as one the “founders of the Orientalist tradition in Western painting.”

“In 1479 he was sent to Constantinople by the Venetian government when the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II requested an artist; he returned the next year. Thereafter a number of his subjects were set in the East, and he is one of the founders of the Orientalist tradition in Western painting. His portrait of the Sultan was also copied in paintings and prints and became known all over Europe.”
(See Gentile Bellini, Wikipedia.)

Here, it would appear the term Orientalism is used upside down. But it could be that the term Orientalism is pluralistic. One knows the meaning of the word because of the context in which it is used. Mehmed II was a Conqueror, not the conquered. If one had to attach tags to the portrait featured at the very top of this post, terms such as portraiture, Italian, and the school of Venice may well precede Orientalism. But Gentile Bellini’s famous portrait is nevertheless the portrait of a very powerful Ottoman Sultan, one of the most powerful Ottoman Sultans in history. The word  “Orientalism” may be patronizing when applied to the 19th-century genre depicting the colonized and powerless East, but in cannot be when the content is the portrait of a Conqueror.

However, this portrait can be linked to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, when England, France, and a collapsing Imperial Russia patronizingly partitioned the Ottoman Empire, which it expected to defeat and defeated. In 1922, during the Turkish War of Independence (19 May 1919 – 24 July 1923), the Sultan was sent into exile and two years later the Caliph was removed. The Ottoman Empire had lasted 700 years, from the 13th century until the 20th, but it did not defeat the Byzantine Empire until 29 May 1453. It had survived the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire (4 September 476),  but it had broken with the Western Church in 1054 CE (See Fall of the Roman Empire, Wikipedia and Defeat and dissolution Fall of the Ottoman Empire, Wikipedia.)

The Byzantine Empire had followed the Roman Empire, but Constantinople had been called Byzantium until the Christian Church as an institution was founded in 325 CE, at the First Council of Nicaea, by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. After the Great Schism of 1054 CE, it became the Holy See of Orthodox Christianity. (See Fall of the Roman Empire, Wikipedia.)

So Gentile Bellini, was an Orientalist of a different orientation. When he was in Turkey and Greece, he could not resist sketching Turks and other Muslims, but he was not depicting colonized individuals. Other members of the Venetian School also painted the Orient.

Merchants, Discoverers, and Conquerors

Marco Polo

In a sense Marco Polo resembles our 19th-century Orientalists. Marco Polo documented his Orient by narrating his travels. He was fascinated by the lands he travelled, the people he met, and the animals he saw, animals unknown in Europe. He therefore told his  story to Rustichello da Pisa who became the co-author, or amanuensis, of The Travels of Marco Polo (c. 1300), also entitled Il Milione and Le Livre des merveilles du monde. Marco Polo’s Il Milione was written in Medieval French. Rustichello and Marco were prisoners in Genoa when Marco narrated his story, which means that Le Livre des merveilles du monde is an example of prison literature.

Venetian Fra Mauro and Christopher Columbus

The Travels of Marco Polo was a bestseller. The book inspired cartographer Fra Mauro, a Benedictine monk who died in 1464. More importantly, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus (31 October 1450 and 30 October 1451 in Genoa – died on 20 May 1506 in Valladolid) found a Latin copy of Il Milione which he annotated. Marco Polo was a merchant, so, as mentioned above, trade was the first way East and West interacted.

Vasco da Gama: Colonialism

Matters would change. Marco Polo’s book may also have influenced Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (c. 1460s – 24 December 1524), who departed Lisbon on 8 July 1497 and was the first European to reach India by sea linking the Atlantic Ocean (the West) and the Indian Ocean (the East). Once again, trade was the motive: the spice trade. Portugal wanted to  undermine the Republic of Venice whose merchants could travel safely by land to purchase the spices of the Orient. Vasco da Gama was appointed Viceroy of India in 1524, by the king of Portugal.

Vasco da Gama committed acts of cruelty. For instance, he locked 400 Muslim pilgrims, including 50 women and their babies,and after their ship was looted, he had his prisoners burned to death. This incident is named the Pilgrim ship incident. (See Vasco da Gama, Wikipedia.)

See also

The Crusades

  • tapestries, the mille-fleurs (thousand flowers) motif
  • carpets

La Dame à la licorne, Mille-fleurs motif (Musée national du Moyen-Âge, Paris) (Wikipedia)

Beginning in the 11th century, Crusaders were influenced by the magnificent carpets of the Orient many of which contained silver and gold and displayed the mille-fleurs motif, which was a favourite.

The last Crusade was the conquest of the Constantinople, in 1453, but the Crusades began in the 11th century. Oriental motifs had therefore entered Europe quite early in the Middle Ages. The Apocalypse Tapestry, which consisted of large number of panels, 90, was made between 1377–1382, by Jean Bondol and Nicholas Bataille is undeniably astonishing. Several panels were damaged or destroyed, but those that survived are housed in the Château d’Angers, France. The more famous Lady and the Unicorn (La Dame à la licorne), which we have discussed, a long time agois housed in the Musée national du Moyen Âge, the former Cluny Museum, in Paris. But the following contains relevant information.

A tapestry resembling the Dame à la licorneThe Hunt of the Unicorn (seven panels), made in Liège, is housed in the Cloister (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The Apocalypse Tapestry and the Dame à la licorne (six panels) were both made in Europe, Flanders to be precise. Jean Bondol was from Bruges.

Louis XIV, the French King, could have his tapestries and carpets made at the Gobelins Manufactory. A second factory, the Savonnerie Manufactory, a former soap factory (savon) was also established in the 17th century. The Savonnerie was established in 1615 by Pierre DuPont who had just returned from the Levant. The Savonnerie was incorporated with the Gobelins Manufactory in 1825. (See Savonnerie Manufactory, Wikipedia.)

Turquerie and Chinoiserie

Turquerie, a taste for all things reflecting the Ottoman Turks, was not popular in Europe until the 18th century, a late date if one considers that Francis I of France and Suleiman the Magnificent entered into an alliance, the Franco-Ottoman Alliance, in 1536. This entente would last until Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt. (See French Campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia). Similarly, Chinoiserie, an engouement, a craze, for all things Chinese, did not flourish until the 18th century.


Woman in Turkish Dress by Jean-Étienne Liotard, 18th century (Google Art Project)



Chinese Garden by François Boucher, 18th century (Wikipedia)


There is an older Orient. Edward Said’s may be patronizing, but Bellini’s portrait of Mehmed II depicts a Conqueror and it suggests immense wealth. See the jewels, the ornate frame and the little crowns. Merchants travelled to the East to purchase its spices, its coffee and its fabrics. There was so much beauty to the East and there was opulence and mystery. It could be that we do not study the Orient sufficiently, but will the Orient ever reveal itself?

The knowledge crusaders took from the East was mostly scientific: algebra, architecture, medical practices, not to mention Arabic numerals…

Love to everyone. 

Mozart‘s Rondo alla Turca, Sonata 11, K331 (330i)
Paul Barton (piano)


Il Milione (Polo & Rustichello)

© Micheline Walker
18 September 2016









Twelve Hours of the Green Houses (1795), by Kitagawa Utamaro


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Kitagawa Utamaro (ca. 1753 – 31 October 1806)

Twelve Hours of the Green Houses (1794–1795)
(Photo credit: Wikipaintings)
I am once again posting an older article that leads to other posts. It is part of the Japonism series. They will then be given a page which will make them easily accessible. These articles are not perfect, but I loved writing them. Japonisme is fascinating.
I am finishing a post about an older Orient.

Love to every one

These are Utamaro’s depiction of each of the twelve hours of the traditional Japanese clock. The Hours constitute a series of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) prints. Utamaro is the first of the three Japanese artists I have featured. His bijinga, or bi-jinga (“beautiful person picture”) earned him fame. 


Each hour is named after an animal. Japan has its bestiary, except that the symbolism attached to Oriental animals often differs from the symbolism attached to animals inhabiting the Western bestiary. The significance of each animal has little to do with the “real” or mythical animal.  These animals are anthropomorphic, i.e. humans in disguise.


In the Western world, we have Books of Hours based on the Liber Usualis and the Rule of Benedict. The Liber Usualis is a compendium of Gregorian chants rooted in Western monasticism. There are eight Canonical Hours observed by monks.

As for Books of Hours, they are religious in spirit, but were made for lay Christians. Les Riches Heures de Jean de France, Duc de Berry features exquisite illuminations, from enluminures (FR), and fine calligraphy. The Fitzwilliam Book of Hours is also an exceptional work of art.

Human beings have chronicled time, beginning with hours. However, months are also chronicled as are seasons: soltices and equinoxes. Meisho (“famous places”) prints show not only famous places, but people going about their everyday activities or domestic duties and some are divided according to seasons. Utagawa Hiroshige‘s series, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo is divided into seasons.

  1. The Hour of the Rat: 23 – 1h
  2. The Hour of the Ox: 1 -3h
  3. The Hour of the Tiger: 3 – 5h
  4. The Hour of the Hare: 5 – 7h
  5. The Hour of the Dragon: 7 – 9h (alternate image)
  6. The Hour of the Snake: 9 – 11h (alternate image)
  7. The Hour of the Horse: 11 – 13h (altermate image)
  8. The Hour of the Sheep: 13 – 15h (alternate images)*
  9. The Hour of the Monkey: 15 – 17h
  10. The Hour of the Rooster: 17 – 19h (alternate image)
  11. The Hour of the Dog: 19 – 21h
  12. The Hour of the Boar: 21 – 23h
The Hour of the Ramin
(Twelve Hours of the Green House)
*Twelve Hours of the Yoshiwara (to my knowledge, an alternate title)
& Twelve Hours of the Yoshiwara

Image at the foot of this post

‘Midori of the Hinataka’
from The Hour of the Rat


1. (above) 2. 3. 4. (below)


5. 6. 7. 8.the-hour-of-the-dragon (1) 9. 10. 11. 12.






© Micheline Walker
17 July 2013

Orientalism: Good & Bad


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The Palace Guard by Ludwig Deutshe (

I am revisiting my post entitled Orientalism: Good or Bad.

Orientalism and Oriental Studies

My post entitled Orientalism: Good or Bad suggested that one could no longer use the word Orientalism. It had referred to paintings created by Western artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Horace Vernet who painted in a style called academicism, art as it was taught at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. However, the word Orientalism is still used and Orientalist paintings are sold at auctions and displayed in major museum Claude Piening describes Orientalism as a “genre.”

The link above takes one to publicity (3 minutes) about an auction at Sotheby’s in London. The auction took place in 2013. The word Orientalism was used to describe works by European artists depicting the East. Il was a two-day auction. On the first day, the works of Orientalists were sold. However, on the second day, Sotheby’s auctioned off Islamic art, rather than the paintings of 19th-century Europeans or Western artists featuring the Orient. Wikipedia gives a list of Orientalist Artists. (See List of Orientalist Artists.)

However, one now speaks of Oriental Studies, which includes Egyptology and the work of William Jones (28 September 1746 – 17 April 1794), the philologist who first recognized a relationship between European anguages and Indian languages. (See Indo-European languages, Wikipedia.)

Edward Said’s Orientalism

As for the patronizing Orientalism, studied in Edward Said‘s 1978 controversial Orientalism, it exists. The many depictions of voluptuous white nudes bathing and lounging in harems are examples of Dr Said’s Orientalism. Orientalism may be clichéd and, in this respect, can be associated with colonialism.

The East: Real or Borrowed

Despite its flaws, colonialism, British colonialism in particular, had the benefit of fostering an interest in the Orient, such as William Jones’ research Napoleon lost the Battle of the Nile, but the scholars who accompanied him founded Egyptology. Colonists, mostly British, also discovered objets d’art such as netsuke(s), small Japanese carvings used on belts for men, and cloisonnés, enamel, gems or glass poured into or inserted inside little metal walls called cloisons. They also discovered fine porcelain (now called china) and sumptuous Oriental rugs. These adorned their homes and to this day beautiful rooms often display fine Oriental vases and intricate rugs.

During the 19th century, members of the Arts and Crafts Movement replicated the motifs of the East. Artists and craftsmen associated with the Arts and Crafts movement could create homes decorated to reflect the East, Near or Far, including Japan. Ukiyo-e prints flooded Europe in the second half of the 19th century inaugurating Japonism. Oriental motifs adorned wallpapers, fabric, ceramic or class tiles made in the West. One could also purchase the finest china, made in England and other European countries.

Turquerie, however, was fashionable well before the 19th century. In 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople today’s Istanbul. Eastern Europe fell to the Ottoman Empire. The craze for chinoiserie also preceded the 19th century. As for Orientalism, it dates back to Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798-1801). (See French Campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia.)


Orientalist Portraiture

I have focussed on Orientalist portraiture. We have seen Horace Vernet’s portrait of Mameluke Roustam Raza and Gérôme’s portrait of a black Bashi-Basouk. Both portraits are or will be housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but although taste varies, there are objective artistic standards. One may not wish to hang a reproduction of Gérôme’s black Bashi-Basouk in one’s home, but as a work of art, Gérôme’s Bashi-Basouk is an exceptional painting.


Therefore, although  a work of art may be clichéd, it may nevertheless be beautiful. The West has depicted the East at times successfully and, at other times, less so. In other words, the art of European painters depicting the East can be good or bad.

I have featured Horace Vernet’s Head of an Arab Man. Today’s choice is Ludwig Deutsh’s Palace Guard.

Love to everyone

Sources and Resources


In a Persian Market
Albert William Ketèlbey
Edited by Marino van Wakeren

Portrait of a Mameluke, said to be Roustam Raza (ca. 1781–1845)

Portrait of a Mameluke, said to be Roustam Raza (ca. 1781–1845) (MMA, NY)

© Micheline Walker
14 September 2016








The Phoenix: on the Importance of Symbols & Myths


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“The Phœnix,” The Aberdeen Bestiary
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This post was published several years ago. I am using it to let you know that I am still posting but was very busy during the last few days.
Love to everyone.

Aberdeen Bestiary

If the myth of the phœnix did not exist, we would probably invent it. Mythical creatures are usually born of a human need, which, in this case, is the need for rebirth. Moreover, given that the Phœnix is a transcultural and nearly universal figure, we can presume that the need for rebirth is widely and profoundly rooted in the human imagination.

Our phœnix is the mythical singing bird that is reborn from its ashes. It [le phénix] is associated with a 170 elegiac-verse poem written by Lucius Cæcilius Fiminature  Lactantius, an early Christian author (c. 240 – c. 320) and an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I. The Ave Phœnice is about the death and rebirth of a mythical bird, a bird that rises from its own ashes. This poem was retold in English as The Phœnix, an anonymous Old English poem composed of 677 lines, based on Lactantius’s Ave Phœnice.

Given that the phœnix rises from its ashes, it constitutes a powerful symbol that one can associate with survival, as is the case with Évangéline and Maria Chapdelaine‘s mythic “pays de Québec.” The phœnix is a source of hope to the inhabitants of lands decimated by wars or natural disasters. As a symbol of rebirth, the phœnix also brings hope to those who, like Job, who have lost everything. This is how it appears in the Hebrew Bible:

 I thought I would end my days with my family/ And be as long-lived as the phœnix. (Job.29:18) [i]

Mythical and Mythological Animals

Although it appears in the Bible, I am tempted to consider the phœnix as a mythical rather than mythological figure. Mythological figures have ancestors and descendants, or a lineage, which can hardly be the case with the immortal phœnix. However, given that it can rise from its ashes and is therefore immortal and godlike, this distinction may be rather artificial and insignificant. In other words, whether mythical or mythological, the phœnix is a more powerful symbol than the dragon, the unicorn and the griffin, creatures that also lack a lineage, or mostly so.

In beast literature, he is zoomorphic in that he combines features borrowed from many animals, except obviously human features. Remember that Machiavelli’s centaur was half human and half horse. Our phœnix is an animal, albeit legendary.

In Greece, the phœnix (purple) was an “Arabian bird, the only one of its kind, which according to Greek legend lives a certain number of years, at the end of which it makes a nest of spices, sings a melodious dirge, flaps its wings to set fire to the pile, burns itself to ashes and comes forth with new life.”[ii]

The Phoenix*

*Photo credit:

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica “in ancient Egypt and in Classical antiquity, [the phœnix] was a fabulous bird associated with the worship of the sun. The Egyptian phœnix was said to be as large as an eagle, with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry.[iii] Besides, it had a life span of no less than 500 years and “[a]s its end approached, the phœnix fashioned a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, set it on fire, and was consumed in the flames. From the pyre miraculously sprang a new phœnix, which, after embalming its father’s ashes in an egg of myrrh, flew with the ashes to Heliopolis (“City of the Sun”) in Egypt, where it deposited them on the altar in the temple of the Egyptian god of the sun, Re.”[iv] The Egyptian phœnix symbolized immortality.

Phoenix depicted in the book of mythological creatures by F. J. Bertuch (1747-1822).

F. J. Bertuch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Islamic mythology the phœnix was identified with the ‘anqā,’ also a bird, but one that “became a plague and was killed.”[v]

Fantasy Literature and elsewhere

The phœnix was used by J. K. Rowling in the fifth book of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phœnix, 2003. It is also featured in Jean de La Fontaine, “Le  Corbeau et le Renart,” (Book I.2), or the “Raven and the Fox,” where the Fox tells the crow that because of its beautiful voice, it is a phœnix among the guests of forests:  “Vous êtes le phénix des hôtes de ces bois.”  In French, blackmail is translated by le chantage. The fox makes the corbeau sing and the cheese drops.

Even the ageless Cinderella narrative has phœnix-like dimensions. The word Cinderella (Cendrillon) is derived from ashes: cinders and cendres. Through the mediation of her fairy godmother, the ash-girl, reduced to that role by jealous sisters and a mean stepmother, a second wife, becomes the princess of fairy tales.

Christian Symbolism

Moreover, we cannot leave aside the phœnix as a Christian symbol. For Christians, the immortal bird represents the resurrection of Christ. On the third day, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead as the phœnix rises from his ashes. In the liturgical year, Christians go from Ash Wednesday to the Resurrection: Easter.

Mere Mortals

We cannot escape death as we are mere mortals, but life is nevertheless perpetuated.  Outside my window there are naked trees, but they will again be adorned. And even if one’s land is a paper land, a literary homeland, that too is a land. In 1889-1890, Henri-Raymond Casgrain, the author of Pèlerinage au pays d’Évangéline was President of the Royal Society of Canada and quite lucid. Yet there is no “real” Évangéline. She was created by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in 1847.

The manner in which humanity copes with its condition often leads to mythification and once the myth is in place, it can be as real and powerful as is Évangéline to Acadians and her “pays de Québec” to Maria Chapdelaine.  


Phoenix, from Aberdeen Bestiary

[i] Donald Ray Schwartz, Noah’s Ark: an Annotated Encyclopedia of Every Animal Species in the Hebrew Bible (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 2000), p. 400, p. 405, pp. 408-409.

[ii] “phœnix,” in Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, revised by Adrian Room (London: Cassel House, 2001[1959]).

[iii] phœnix.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <>.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

composer: Igor Stravinsky (17 June 1882 – 6 April 1971)
piece: “The Firebird”  first performed for Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes (1910)
performers:  Vienna Philharmonic (Salzburg Festival, 2000) 
conductor: Valery Gergiev
photograph: Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky©Micheline Walker
1 February 2012

Orientalism: Good or Bad


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Head of an Arab Man by Jean-Horace Vernet (pen, brown ink, brown wash) (Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, London)



Entering the Mosque by Edwin Lord Weeks, 1885 (Photo credit:


  • Edward Said
  • Orientalism
  • Eurocentrism
  • the Migrant Crisis
  • Brexit
  • Palestine

“Orientalism is the exaggeration of difference, the presumption of Western superiority, and the application of clichéd analytical models for perceiving the Oriental world.”
(Edward Said, Orientalism, Wikipedia)

At first sight, the post that published itself on 1 September 2016 and was returned to the status of “draft,” seemed to indicate opposition to Edward Said’s Orientalism, which I took to be the art of Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904), Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (March 3, 1803 – August 22, 1860), Émile Jean-Horace Vernet (30 June 1789 – 17 January 1863), the Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (16 March 171- 25 June 1835), Eugène Delacroix  (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863) and others. There is a difference between my view and his, but it is not opposition.

According to Dr Said, colonialism and imperialism rested on a sense of superiority on the part of colonialists. Edward Said studied “the cultural representations that are the bases of Orientalism, the West‘s patronizing perceptions and fictional depictions of ‘The East.’” Orientalism, Wikipedia.)

There can be no doubt that the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 epitomizes what is now referred to as Eurocentrism, the postulate governing both colonialism and imperialism. Colonialists viewed themselves as superior to the inhabitants of the countries they had discovered and/ or conquered.

It is within the nature of Empires to rise and fall. It could be therefore that, in 1916, the Ottoman Empire was about to collapse. However, it was not for Mark Sykes, from Britain, and for François Georges-Picot, from France, to partition the Ottoman Empire and to do so before it had fallen. The Sykes-Picot Agreement violated what we now consider a right: the right of nations to determine their future, a right which, in 1916, may not have been perceived as a right.

Nativism is also Eurocentric and, in 2016, Eurocentrism should be a thing of the past. However, it has resurfaced as a result of the European Migrant Crisis. Where will Marine Le Pen send the Muslim migrants who are now entering France? She could be elected to the presidency of France in 2017. More ominous is the possible election, three months from now, of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. If Mr Trump is elected, there will be no asylum for migrant Muslims in the United States. It is Mr Trump’s view that Muslims are terrorists.

Who would have imagined, a year ago, that British Jews would exercise their right of return to Germany because of the degree of racism that seemed to underpin the unexpected Brexit leave vote? There are consequences to colonialism and to imperialism. If a nation has colonized a nation, the identity of the colonized people may reflect the identity of the citizens who rule it. During the period its territory is considered home to another nation, inhabitants of the colony are educated in the schools of the colonist. All a society needs to ask of its inhabitants, whatever their origin, is that they be law-abiding citizens. “Je suis Charlie”  and “Je suis Raïf.” 

For that matter, “I am Dr Said.” One does not partition a country to make room for a people who claim as theirs a land they have not inhabited for two thousand years or more. Notions such as the concepts of “promised land” and that of “chosen” people are not literal. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 supported the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people, but the Jewish homeland Britain supported was in Palestine. That is all Britain could promise. If it is the right of nations to determine their own future, the  matter should have been negotiated by the people concerned: the Jews and the Palestinians.

The Holocaust

  • Hitler’s persecution of the Jews
  • the United States and World War II
  • the partition of Palestine
  • the creation of Israel 1948
  • Orientalism

History took a wrong turn. Adolf Hitler and his Nazis rose to power in the 1930s and in 1939, they started invading European countries. They also built concentration camps and killed 6 million Jews, most of them in gas chambers. Intervention was needed, so Winston Churchill approached US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (30 January 1882 – 12 April 1945), a truly great American.

American intervention was required both to liberate occupied Europe and to save the Jews who had survived Hitler’s concentration camps. American help was also needed to rebuild Europe. Europe had been crushed. The United States is a powerful country, but seldom was it so powerful than after World War II. The State of Israel was created and the United States, under President Harry S Truman, was the first country to recognize it as a state. Israel would enlarge its borders in 1967, during the Six-Day War. In fact, nearly 50 years later, Israel has yet to return the occupied territories it conquered during the Six-Day War. We may still have autocrats, but colonialism is over.

In the meantime, Dr Said, a musician, and pianist Daniel Barenboim were promoting harmony and counterpoint. Dr Said and Mr Barenboim co-founded the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, based in Seville, and whose members are Israeli, Arab and Jewish musicians. (See Edward Said, Wikipedia.)

I can understand why Mr Said finds fault with Orientalism. Although it has produced masterpieces, Orientalism conveys a view of the Orient that is conditioned by artists whose Orient is a borrowed Orient. It is not Islamic art and it may be purely of an ornamental value. By and large, the West does not learn the East. Lawrence of Arabia was an exception.

Jean-Horace Vernet’s Head of an Arab Man, featured at the top of this post, is quite an achievement, by artistic standards. However, it is not Islamic art. It is Orientalism, a movement that followed Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt and Syria. Which takes us to Egyptology.


Napoleon at the Battle of the Pyramids, Baron Antoine-Jean Gros


Bonaparte visiting the Plague-Stricken at Jaffa by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1799  (Art Renewal Centre)

Visit the Louvre:
The Battle of the Pyramids (Wikipedia.)


“An unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of an enormous contingent of scientists and scholars (“savants”) assigned to the invading French force, 167 in total. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered as an indication of Napoleon’s devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment, and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda obfuscating the true motives of the invasion; the increase of Bonaparte’s power. (See French campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia.)

  • L’Institut d’Égypte
  • the Rosetta Stone
  • Champollion

I realize fully that Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt and Syria was motivated by his wish to hinder British trade with a more distant Orient and that France, under Napoleon wanted to annex Egypt. It wanted to enlarge its Empire. Nevertheless, although the French campaign in Egypt was mostly self-serving, I rather admire Napoleon’ caveat to his troops as they approached Alexandria. They would meet Muslims and had to be tolerant of their culture. His caveat is quoted in my last post: A Mameluke & the Napoleonic Code.

Interestingly, Napoleon took 167 scientists and scholars to the Near East and even if the discovery of the Rosetta Stone were their only finding, it was an important discovery and the stone’s ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered by Jean-François Champollion, who was a linguist whose research interest was ancient languages and whose linguistic research would lead to more research.[1]

L’Institut d’Égypte

Copies were made of the inscriptions of the Rosetta Stone were sent to various countries and a discipline was born: Egyptology. The scientists and scholars who travelled with Napoleon’s troops made several findings and, on 24 August 1798, 48 of Napoleon’s scholars met and founded l’Institut d’Égypte. As early as 22 November 1799, they decided to publish their Description de l’Égypte. The Institut d’Égypte was closed on 21 March 1801, when Napoleon returned to France.

At the time, an artefact such as the Rosetta Stone could be considered part of the spoils of wars. It was established that Napoleon had been defeated by Britain at the Battle of the Nile, fought from 1 to 3 August 1798. Therefore, under the terms of the Capitulation of Alexandria (1801), the Rosetta Stone was transported to England aboard l’Égyptienne, a frigate captured from the French. It was housed in the British Museum where it is still exhibited.

Ironically, General Jacques-François Menou, baron de Boussay, who had converted to Islam and married a Muslim, was the person who handed the Rosetta Stone over to Britain. The precious rock stele had been found under Menou’s command.

In Egypt, Napoleon had recruited an élite corps of soldiers whom he called the Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard. They joined his Armée d’Orient and followed Napoleon back to France. One Mamluk, Roustam Raza, a slave of Armenian descent, would be Napoleon’s bodyguard for 15 years. He had settled in France and would not follow Napoleon to Elba, where the Emperor was first exiled.

Taha Hussein

The Institut d’Égypte resumed its activities in 1836. Its scholars were English, French, German, Egyptians… Scholars from every nationality may choose Egyptology as a field of expertise. But l’Institut égyptien‘s major figure would be Egyptian scholar Taha Hussein (15 November 1889 – 28 October 1973) whose accomplishments include a book on Ibn Khaldūn (27 May 1332 – 19 March 1406). The Institut was severely damaged by a fire during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 (The Arab Spring). It is being rebuilt but some, if not many, of the documents it housed are forever lost. There may not be another copy.

Orientalism in Art and Literature

  • Orientalism
  • Gérôme, Vernet, Gros, Ingres, etc.
  • in Literature: Flaubert’s Salammbô

As for Orientalism as subject matter or theme, the French campaign in Egypt and Syria  (Wikipedia) did inspire artists, such as Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) and Horace Vernet (MMA, NY). Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (29 August 1780 – 14 January 1867), painted the famous Grande Odalisque (Louvre). Earlier in history an oda (Turkish for room) had been a chambermaid, but Ingres’ Grande Odalisque was a concubine, almost a secret, but she was the first of many. She may be elongated, but that is poetic licence. Among Orientalists, most had travelled to the Near East, but Ingres had not. His Grande Odalisque was the product of the imagination or Orientalisme. It was not Islamic Art.

The French campaign in Egypt and Syria also inspired musical compositions and literature. However, neither Victor Hugo‘s “Les Djinns,” nor Gustave Flaubert (12 December 1821 – 8 May 1880) Salammbô, a 1862 historical novel, are Islamic literature. Gustave Flaubert, the author of Madame Bovary (1856), did visit Istanbul, in modern day Turkey, and Beirut, Lebanon, before he wrote Salammbô. At the time Salammbô was in progress, Flaubert also went to Carthage to research his historical novel. He needed information and couleur locale.

Like Ingres, Victor Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) did not travel to the Orient. “Les Djinns,” one of the poems included in Hugo’s Orientales (1829), is the product of a brilliant imagination. However, Hugo was inspired by the Greek War of Independence, 1821 – 1832, as was Eugène Delacroix. During the course of his career, Delacroix also illustrated William Shakespeare, the Scottish author Walter Scott and the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. (See Eugène Delacroix, Wikipedia.)


Quebec has a policy of interculturalism. It is based on the work of Martha Nussbaum and emphasizes humanity. Interculturalism involves “the recognition of common human needs across cultures and of dissonance and critical dialogue within cultures” Cultivating Humanity).[2] Humanism is precisely what Dr Said believes should be emphasized. We are all the same and it is this sameness we should recognized. Palestinians are not second-class citizens no more than Muslims in Algeria.   


As works of art, musical compositions and literature, which is what I have shown, would not be criticized by Dr Said, not individually and not as paintings, musical compositions, and literature. All express an interest in the East. That interest can lead to a wish to understand and to accept what differs from the rest of us but only superficially. Works of art can be inspirational, including a depiction of the orient by an outsider. It may lead to an appreciation of Islamic art, which is where peace may begin.

What Dr Said bemoans is a human tragedy. Palestinians have been trivialized and they have been dispossessed. They are still, to this day, being relocated, like pawns. The exodus of Palestinians started in 1948 and, in 2003, United States President George W. Bush entered Iraq at British Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s instigation. Entering a sovereign nation is illegal, but it is also disrespectful, a human value.

Mr Said’s book, entitled Orientalism, has to do, first and foremost, with the humiliation Palestinians were subjected to when their country was partitioned and its citizens marginalized. But the more significant starting-point was the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France. Sykes and Georges-Picot divided the spoils of war so their “spheres of influence” were protected. Countries were like pawns and the promise of a Greater Syria, made to Arabs through Lawrence of Arabia, was not reflected in the new map. As for the Balfour Declaration of 1917, it went no further than a decision to support the creation of a Jewish homeland, in Palestine.

Whatever its starting-point, l’Institut égyptien would have survived in its pristine condition as an Egyptian establishment which it had become, had rioters not thrown a Molotov cocktail through a window during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. We now have suicide bombers.

I have included two videos. One is difficult to understand and the other, too long for a post. They feature Dr Said. Dr Said may at first be difficult to understand. However he seems to be saying that ornaments, however beautiful, fall short of an understanding of the East.

I apologize for a lengthy absence. I’ve been unwell: anemia.

Love to everyone. 



[1] Jean Lacouture, Champollion, une Vie de lumières (Paris: Éditions Grasset & Fasquelle, 1988).
[2] Quoted in Beyond Bilingualism and Biculturalism (see RELATED ARTICLES)

napoleon-bonaparte-age-23-by-henri-fc3a9lix-emmanuel-philippoteaux (1)

Napoleon Bonaparte, aged 23, by Henri-Félix-Emmanuel Philippoteaux (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
17 August 2016



A Mameluke & the Napoleonic Code


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Portrait of a Mameluke said to be Roustam Raza by Horace Vernet, 1810 (MMA, NY)

When Napoleon arrived in Alexandria, he spoke to his troops and said:

“The peoples we will be living alongside are Muslims; their first article of faith is ‘There is no other god but God, and Mahomet is his prophet’. Do not contradict them; treat them as you treated the Jews, the Italians; respect their muftis and their imams, as you respected their rabbis and bishops. Have the same tolerance for the ceremonies prescribed by the Quran, for their mosques as you had for the convents, for the synagogues, for the religion of Moses and that of Jesus Christ. The Roman legions used to protect all religions. You will here find different customs to those of Europe, you must get accustomed to them. The people among whom we are going treat women differently to us; but in every country whoever violates one is a monster. Pillaging only enriches a small number of men;  it dishonours us, it destroys our resources; it makes enemies of the people who it is in our interest to have as our friends. The first city we will encounter was built by Alexander [the Great]. We shall find at every step great remains worthy of exciting French emulation.”
(See French Campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia)

When he was in Egypt, Napoleon recruited a guard made up of Mamelukes or Mamluks. Horace Vernet left us this extraordinary portrait of Roustam Raza (1783 – 7 December 1845), a Mameluke and Napoleon’s personal bodyguard from 1798 until 1814.

Roustam Raza was born to Armenian parents in Georgia. He was kidnapped and sold as a slave. He married in Dourdan, near Paris, and died in Dourdan on 7 December 1845. Raza did not follow Napoleon when he was exiled to Elba.

Raza is remembered for his memoirs of the years he had spent in the service of Napoleon. The Memoirs are online, in Russian.

The Memoirs of Roustam Raeza (Raza) will be available as of October 11, from Amazon.

The Napoleonic Code

As for the quotation above, it reveals a lesser-known Napoleon. Napoleon rebuilt France after the French Revolution. For instance, he restored Catholicism (see Concordat of 1801, Wikipedia) and had a civil code drawn up. He appointed a commission of four eminent jurists, including Louis-Joseph Faure who spent four years drafting the Code which went into effect in 1804. Napoleon and Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès chaired the commission. Québec’s Code Civil is based on the Napoleonic Code. Changes were made to the Napoleonic Code, but it remains France’s code civil and it has influenced legislation in a large number of countries. (See Napoleonic Code, Wikipedia.)

I was writing a post that published itself when it was still incomplete. It has been removed and will be reinserted.

Love to everyone  


Horace Vernet
Rachmaninoff Alla marcia Op. 23 No. 5


Self-portrait by Horace Vernet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
1 September 2016









The Rosetta Stone, Obelisks & Delacroix


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Fantasia arabe by Eugène Delacroix, 1833 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

800px-Women_of_algiers_1834_950px (2)

Women of Algiers by Eugène Delacroix, 1834 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Egyptology and Orientalisme

The Rosetta Stone

There was a period of Egyptomania, just as there had been a period of turquerie. Interest in Egypt followed Napoléon’s campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798 – 1801).

Napoléon was defeated by Horatio Nelson of the British Royal Navy at the Battle of the Nile, in 1801. By then l’Armée d’Orient had spent three years in the Near East or Asia Minor and all things oriental had become immensely popular, obelisks in particular. Bonaparte’s objective was to undermine British trade with India. He failed, but, in 1799, Pierre-François Bouchard, an officer in the French Army discovered the Rosetta Stone. Egyptology was born. The Rosetta Stone was a rock stele with inscriptions in 1) Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, 2) Demotic script, a predecessor to Ancient Coptic, and 3) Greek script.

Jean-François Champollion  (23 December 1790 – 4 March 1832), a French scholar, deciphered the Rosetta Stone’s Egyptian hieroglyphs. British polymath Thomas Young (13 June 1773 – 10 May 1829) had translated the Demotic script and had made some progress deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, success evaded Young.

The stone, a rock stele, had been transported to the British Museum where it is still housed. The British had defeated the French at the above-mentioned Battle of the Nile, in 1801, led by the legendary Horatio Nelson. The Rosetta Stone was therefore a British acquisition.

Deciphering: phonetic or ideographic

A main obstacle to linguists deciphering a newly found language is whether or not the symbols of the language are phonetic (sounds) or ideographic (images). In the case of the Rosetta Stone, they were both phonetic and ideographic. The Egyptian hieroglyphs were also a paraphrase rather than a translation of the Ancient Greek script. His knowledge of Ancient Greek and progress in mastering Eastern languages helped Champollion decipher hieroglyphs. He published his results in 1822. Later in the decade, after visiting Egypt, Champollion published further findings.

images (2)

Rosetta Stone (National Geographic)


The exotic has always fascinated artists and all manner of designers. Obelisks, not to be confused with Odalisques, were plentiful and were taken by ship to Europe, or, at times, made in Europe. I have often wondered whether or not Maelzel, who invented the modern metronome in 1815, was influenced by obelisks. Mechanical metronomes are shaped like elongated pyramids. The Washington Monument is an obelisk. Many are located in Rome, Italy. has (See List of obelisks in Rome, Wikipedia.)


The Lateran Obelisk, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The largest obelisk, the Lateran obelisk, is located in Rome. When it was transported from Alexandria to Rome, it weighed 455 tons and stood at 37.2 meters (122 feet)  After its collapse, a higher obelisk was built: 45.7 meters (149.9 feet). The Lateran obelisk was made for the temple of Amun in Karnak. At the very top of the rebuilt obelisk stands a crucifix, which could explain the difference in height. Most Oriental obélisques were viewed as precious and pillaged. Obelisks had several destinations and smaller ones were used in the decorative arts. Many are engraved with names or very intricate bas-reliefs.


Obélisque de Paris, gravure (Photo credit: Le 

Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863) was a Romantic painter as well as a lithographer. Lithographs are copies and therefore more affordable than an original painting. Movement is a main characteristic of Delacroix paintings and it suggests passion. The Romantics expressed their sentiments. Such paintings as the Massacre at Chios and the Death of Sardanapalus convey despair. The Massacre at Chios depicts Greek survivors of a massacre awaiting to be taken as prisoners or slaves. The enslavement of prisoners was a common fate after a victory and they could remain captives for many years, if a ransom were not paid. Before committing suicide, having suffered a final defeat, Sardanapalus has eunuchs kill his concubines.

It is said, however, that in real life Delacroix controlled his passions: reason over passion. He was with near certainty an illegitimate son of the very famous Talleyrand, a Prince and, arguably, the most powerful man in France. He was Napoleon’s éminence grise and may have orchestrated his defeat at Waterloo. Talleyrand is also the man behind the Congress of Vienna (1815), an event foretelling of such partitioning as the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

As for Delacroix, the leader of the French Romantics, his father protected him discreetly and promoted his career. After Talleyrand’s death, Delacroix was the protégé of the Duke of Morny, Talleyrand’s grandson.


Delacroix early in his career (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I intended to show the art of several Orientalists, one of whom is Delacroix who actually travelled to the Near East. My favourite orientalist is Jean-Léon Gérôme, but there are gems among Horace Vernet’s paintings and the artwork of other Orientalists. Orientalism crossed the English Channel and grew into an inspiration to members of the Aesthetic Movement, next to Japonism. The Orient became affordable as a decorative art.

In 2011, art critic Julia Cartwright exclaimed:

“There are lovely things at every turn, Persian potteries, hangings of every variety, cabinets and rugs. I fell in love with a sunflower paper at fourpence ha’penny a yard.”
(The Guardian)

Love to everyone 



Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, 1826 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
30 August 2016