In every civilization, fabric and carpets have been woven, not to mention baskets. Persian rugs are the nec plus ultra and may cost millions. With the advent of computers, it may be that making a carpet can be programmed. But will it show little animals, flowers, whirling lines, etc.
Persian carpets have ‘pile.’ The pile, wool or silk, or other material, is knotted and it stands upwards. However, the warp is one’s first component. The warp is a vertical thread, often simple cotton, but it must be strong cotton. It holds the knots. Yet, some rugs are made entirely of silk. The weft or woof is the horizontal part of the rug or tapestry. The wool or silk can be inserted manually, with a thick needle, but a shuttle is very practical. The flying shuttle was invented by John Kay (17 June 1704 – c. 1779) in 1733. It goes back and forth mechanically.
Warp and Weft
Kilim slit weave
Turkish and Persian knots
Flat weave & Pile weave
1-2-3-4 (left to right, both rows)
Rugs with pile
woven rugs warp and weft (woof) (illustration, 1)
rugs with pile
Kilims are woven rugs. They combine warp and weft and are flat. In carpets with pile, the pile (standing upwards) is knotted around the warp (see illustration above, 4) and one combs it down evenly. At this point, one can insert silver, gold and precious gems. There may be rows of plain weft separating knotted wefts (see illustration below, 5). That choice depends on the thickness and density one wishes to give the rug.
Turkish Ghiordes knots
Tying the fringe
5-6 (left to right)
The rug’s pattern and its motifs are designed on paper (a carton). One must be very careful. If the wool, silk or other material in kilims is coloured the colours may be introduced separately. It is as if one made slits (see the illustration above, 2). One has to know exactly how many rows of weft and knots will be required to make a flower or a rabbit or a geometrical design. To make sure the surface of the rug is even one cuts the wool or silk in equal lengths. But one may shape the wool or silk after the rug is woven. Chinese rugs are often carved and the effect is stunning.
At the two extremities of the rug one leaves a few rows of cotton, or other material, woven (the weft) horizontally and a fringe (the warp). These few rows do not contain knots and are woven tightly. The fringe (the warp) may be knotted (see illustration above, 6).
There are, of course, preliminaries. One must card (comb) the wool. To my knowledge that is done before the wool is washed. There are instructions on the internet according to which one washes the wool before it is carded. Unwashed wool contains a form of glue without which one cannot spin the wool.
Spinning determines the thickness of the wool. A mere hand spindle will produce good wool. In fact, so will a pencil. But there are spinning wheels. The goal is to twist the wool into a form of thread. It is possible to produce carpet bags, or prayer rugs, sitting in one’s living-room. One builds a frame and drives in little nails (finishing nails) at both ends, or extremities. The nails hold the warp (vertical).
To colour the wool, one first uses a mordant (mordre: to bite), such as copper, to fix the dye. The wool is put in the mordant and one lets it soak. Once the wool has absorbed its mordant, it is possible to fix the dyes. They will hold. If one puts the wool in onion skins dipped in water, one produces various golds. One uses cochineal (a crushed insect) to obtain reds and pinks, depending on the mordant one has used. Indigo is popular colour.
Basically, oriental rugs are made as described above, but techniques may vary from country to country. Large carpets require large looms. They are made in more spacious facilities and the process is time-consuming. Haida Amerindians living on the west coast of Canada make waterproof textile and use it to transport water. The Haida people are superb artists.
I wish to thank our colleague Bryan Hemming for letting me know about the Gentile Bellini knot. I would have to find a manual to see how the Bellini knot is made. By and large, two kinds of knots are used in weaving carpets, which does not preclude using other knots (see illustration at the top, 3 & 5).
We’ve barely entered Venice. It is the West’s first connection with the Ottoman Orient and it is part of a trade route. Glass was/is also made in Venice or just off Venice, the lovely Murano glass. The “Silk Animal Carpet,” shown below, is housed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/446642
A long time ago, I learned how to make carpets and tapestries. I still have a supply of wool I made from ‘a’ to ‘z’. I have repaired damaged carpets.
I have erased the beginning of this post. It contained information on an event of extreme cruelty that led to severe losses and still causes episodes of disabling fatigue and life-threatening anxiety. During such episodes, I cannot write or look after myself properly. My blog suffers. It’s a short post.
A Seated Scribe by Gentile Bellini, (Isabella Stewart Gardner Collection)
However, I have done more investigative work on Muslims, Armenians and the concept of nationhood. Religion is a factor in nationhood, but it is not as significant as the use of a common language. Even in the Islamic world, countries accepted plurality. The millet system is a proof of religious tolerance. For instance, in the case of the genocide of Armenians, the Ottomans feared Armenians would enter into an alliance with Christian Russia.
Nationhood is rooted in several factors, but langage overrides faith. State and speech is a product of the Renaissance and a result of Johannes Gutenberg‘s invention, in 1439, of the movable type printing press. Constantinople was defeated in 1453 and its Greek scholars fled to Italy carrying books. The printing press had just been invented when Byzantine scholars inaugurated the Renaissance. Literacy spread, creating a middle class, and it brought the validation of the vernacular, and the writing of songs in the mother tongue, or madrigals, but polyphonic, mixing voices. This is a subject we have covered, but not in the context of nationhood and nationalism.
A colleague told me about the Bellini knot, so I looked at the Metropolitan’s collection and found four Bellini rugs. I also found a Safavid dynasty tapestry or rug featuring the mille-fleursmotif. Keeping fabrics in good condition is difficult. Flanders may therefore have influenced the East. The Franco-Flemish lands were the cultural hub of ‘Europe’ before the Renaissance, in music especially, but tapestries and rugs were made in Flanders, as well as the illuminations of Books of Hours and other illuminated manuscripts. There were exchanges.
Particularly interesting is the position of Venice. It was very close to the Ottoman Empire. Trading led to use the of a lingua franca. A simplified Italian was the lingua franca when Bellini travelled to Constantinople. In 2007, the Metropolitan had an exhibition on Venice and the Islamic World, 828 – 1797.
I will close here, but this discussion will be continued.
Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent by Titian, c. 1530 (Wikipedia)
An Older Orient
the Silk Road
the Spice Trade
Mehmed II the Conqueror
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 summonedGentile 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 SultanMehmed IIrequested 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 theOrientalisttradition 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.)
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.
A Janissary by Gentile Bellini, 1479-1480 (British Museum)
Turkish Woman by Gentile Bellini 1479-1480 (British Museum)
Merchants, Discoverers, and Conquerors
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 IlMilione 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.)
tapestries, the mille-fleurs (thousand flowers) motif
La Dame à la licorne, Mille-fleursmotif(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. It 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 ago, is housed in the Musée national du Moyen Âge, the former Cluny Museum, in Paris. But the following contains relevant information.
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…
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.
Courtyard of House in Cairo, Willem de Farmas Festas, 1859
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
Unless otherwise indicated, links are to Wikipedia
Photo credit: Chassériau, Wikipedia
Deutsch & Willem de Farmas, Pinterest
“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.
Hitler’s persecution of the Jews
the United States and World War II
the partition of Palestine
the creation of Israel 1948
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.
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.
“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 propagandaobfuscating the true motives of the invasion; the increase of Bonaparte’s power. (See French campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia.)
the Rosetta Stone
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.
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 frigatecaptured from the French. It was housed in the British Museum where it is still exhibited.
In Egypt, Napoleon had recruited an élite corps of soldiers whom he called the Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard. They joined his Armée d’Orientand 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.
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.
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’ GrandeOdalisque 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.
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).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.
The Turkish Bath, 1862, oil on canvas, diam. 108 cm, Louvre. A summation of the theme of female voluptuousness attractive to Ingres throughout his life, rendered in the circular format of earlier masters. (Caption credit: Wikipedia; Photo credit: Google images)
Grande Odalisque, 1814, oil on canvas, 91 x 162 cm, Louvre. The subject’s elongated proportions, reminiscent of 16th-century Mannerist painters, reflect Ingres’s search for the pure form of his model. (Photo and caption credit: Wikipedia)
We have seen a few examples of Islamic art and Orientalisme. The paintings featured above are by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (29 August 1780 – 14 January 1867) and constitute examples of orientalisme and exoticism, paintings associated with the Orient, the Near East. Several Europeans had gone to the Crusades centuries earlier. Their destination was Jerusalem, the Holy Land. But 19th-century orientalisme is associated with Napoléon‘s military campaigns. Napoléon took his Armée d’Orient to Egypt and Syria. (See French Campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia.) Egyptology was born at that time. Deciphering the Rosetta Stone, found in 1799, was one of its first and chief achievements.
We looked at the art of Jean-Léon Gérôme who had travelled to Egypt and returned with a large supply of ‘images,’ sketches. He depicted scenes from ordinary activities, genre painting. Ingres, however, had not travelled to the orient, the Near East. His style was the same as Gérôme: academicism. Moreover, both artists specialized in historical painting. Several artists travelled to the Near East, but no Orientaliste ever entered a harem, un sérail, where women were guarded by castrated servants called eunuchs. Yet, Orientalists did paint the interior of harems and Turkish baths, favourite scenes.
“Some of the most popular Orientalist genre scenes—and the ones most influential in shaping Western aesthetics—depict harems. Probably denied entrance to authentic seraglios, male artists relied largely on hearsay and imagination, populating opulently decorated interiors with luxuriant odalisques, or female slaves or concubines (many with Western features), reclining in the nude or in Oriental dress. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867) never traveled to the East, but used the harem setting to conjure an erotic ideal in his voluptuous odalisques.” (Orientalisme at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
Ingres’ Grande Odalisque shows anelongated female body. Painting elongated figures is a characteristic of 16th-century mannerism. However, Ingres’ odalisque is somewhat reminiscent of the curvy linear arabesque motifs of Islamic art. Yet, it isn’t busy. La Grande Odalisque has been an inspiration to several artists, one of whom is Matisse. It otherwise ressembles Jacques-Louis David‘s (30 August 1748 – 29 December 1825) depiction of Madame Récamier, an unfinished but celebrated portrait. For information on this painting, see Madame Récamier, Louvre. You may also visit the Wikipedia site on Juliette Récamier.
Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David, 1800 (Photo cedit: Wikipedia)
Juliette Récamier (4 December 1777 – 11 May 1849) was a salonnière who had married Jacques-Rose Récamier(1751 – 1830), a wealthy older man and banker, on 24 April 1793. The marriage was never consummated and rumour has it that he was her father. In 1805, Jacques-Rose sustained financial losses. (See Juliette Récamier, Wikipedia.) He and Juliette had a salon where they entertained distinguished guests, but she retired at l’Abbaye-aux-Bois. The salons survived the French Revolution. Juliette had befriended François-René de Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 –4 July 1848), the author of Le Génie du Christianisme(1802), a literary monument that incorporatedAtala andRené, exotic novellas based on Chateaubriand’s stay in North America. He was an aristocrat and therefore fled France during part of the French Revolution. When Chateaubriand started to live as a recluse, Juliette Récamier was the only person he visited. He visited her every day. In David’s painting, she is leaning on a sofa now called a récamier, after her. By clicking on Madame Récamier, one can read what the Louvre has to say about this very famous painting.
Arabesque motif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Orientalisme also includes Arabesques in music.
Arabesques, Turkish music, are composed in the Phrygian mode. This form of music was used by Claude Debussy and other composers. It was orientalisme, “in the manner of,” rather than Turkish music. I have inserted two pieces by Debussy.
Let me conclude by recommending you read OrientalismeandMadame Récamier. At this point, my continuing to write about this topic would be repetitious and not as and complete and concise as the documents I have referred to. I will note, however, that interest in the Orient takes us back to Marco Polo and the above-mentioned Crusades. Moreover, Islamic art includes elegant calligraphy, Islamic calligraphy, and illuminated manuscripts.
Gérôme’s artwork also refers to pashas (see France in North Africa), persons who occupied a high rank in the Ottoman army and/or government. Some Europeans became honorary pashas whose title could be compared to that of an Earl in Britain. (See Pasha, Wikipedia.) Other familiar scenes are mosques and harems. As a history painter, Gérôme also recorded the trading of white women, la traite des blanches, going back to the Roman Empire. Arabs were fond of white women whom they bought and enslaved. Gérôme’s paintings of harems and women bathing show white women. (See Traite des blanches, FR Wikipedia.)
I will therefore feature a few paintings that are not portraits of bashi-bazouk, the very cruel irregular soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.
Prayer in Cairo by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1865 (MMA, NY)
Harem Women Feeding Pigeons in a Courtyard by Gérôme, no date (wikiart.org)
Napoléon in Egypt by Gérôme, c. 1863 (Princeton University Art Museum)
Gérôme was a very prolific artist whose art was at times extremely engaging, which may explain why it appealed to Théophile Gautier. I have a favourite Gérôme, The Duel After the Masquerade, of which there are two copies. La Sortie du bal masqué cannot be classified as Orientalismbut it speaks to me, it is evocative.
In the second half of the 19th century, when American started to go to Paris and bought works of art, art such as Gérôme’s were not purchased frequently. It was academic art. The American colony in Paris bought the works of innovators whose art was rejected at the Paris Salon. Emperor Napoleon III authorized the 1763 Salon des Refusés, an exhibition held at the Palais de l’Industrie.
Gérôme is known mainly as an academic painter. He was very well-trained and he painted as he had been taught. He was nevertheless very successful as an artist and art teacher. As noted above, Gérôme specialized in history painting, but he also created art depicting Greek mythology and he became a prominent orientalist.
Works by Gérôme are housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, and other museums. Many have been purchased privately, and reproductions are available. A reproduction is not as valuable as the original work of art. However, the ‘image’ is the most important element in the visual arts and Gérôme was an accomplished artist.
A bashi-basouk by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1869 (wikiart.org)
Black bashi-basouk by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1868 (MMA, NY)
There have long been war artists. In North Africa, Horace Vernet (30 June 1789 – 17 January 1863) painted the battles that led to the French conquest of Algiers which had been part of the Ottoman Empire until 1830. The French did not conquer Lebanon and Syria, their future protectorates, but these countries had belonged to the Roman/ Byzantine Empire (330-1204 and 1261-1453) that fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. After World War I, Britain and France would partition the defeated Ottoman Empire into protectorates. (See Zykes-Picot Agreement, Wikipedia.)
Vernet had painted the battles that led to the conquest of Algiers, at which point he became an Orientalist. Colonialism was Eurocentrism, but exoticism was ethnocentrism and it is a characteristic of the 19th century, expressed in several areas: the fine arts, music, and design in general.
I have mentioned Horace Vernet, the painter of battles fought in Algeria. There were in fact many Orientalists in various fields. However, our featured artist is French painter and sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904).
French-born Jean-Léon Gérôme is associated with Academicism. He did not join avant-garde movements. He, in fact, applied for the coveted Prix de Rome, but he failed to be selected. However, having chosen Academicism, Gérôme could show his work at the Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, held annually or bi-annually since the 17th century (1667) in Paris, held annually or bi-annually since the 17th century (1667). In 1846, he painted The Cock Fight (1846) which earned him a medal at the Salon of 1847, but, perhaps more importantly, the painting was praised by writer and critic Théophile Gautier.
Gérôme travelled to Egypt in 1856, but did not do so on an official basis. He travelled as a tourist and artist. Gérôme was a history painter. Consequently, he did paint Napoléon, although Napoléon’s campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798-1801) was a military failure. (See French campaign in Egypt and Syria, Wikipedia.)
Gérôme’s other subject matter was mythology, but in Egypt he became an Orientalist. In my last post, I featured the portrait of a black bashi-basouk. A bashi-basouk, also called delibaş, litterally a “crazy head,” was an irregular soldier in the Ottoman Army. Bashi-bazouk often chose to fight when they expected to rape and pillage. (See Bashi-basouk, Wikipedia.) As portrayed by Gérôme, bashi-basouk are colourful and seem harmless, but they committed atrocities, much as ISIL, Muslim radicals, does. One of their better-known massacres is the Batak massacre of 1876, in Bulgaria.
Bashi-bazouk chieftain by Gérôme, 1881 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Arnaut from Cairo by Gérôme, 1867 (Photo credit: wikiart.org)
Arnaut with Two Whippet Dogs, by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1867 (wikiart.org)
Literature and Music
Gérôme did paint bashi-bazouk, but his range of oriental subject matter is wider and 19th-century exoticism straddles disciplines. It also includes Victor Hugo‘s Les Djinns, a famous and dazzling poem about invisible Arabian creatures, published in Hugo’s 1829 collection entitled Les Orientales.
Hugo’s Les Djinns inspired composers. One is Gabriel Fauré‘s Op.12, entitled Les Djinns. Les Djinns is also a Poème Symphonique for piano and orchestra, M 45, composed in 1884 by César Franck. Hugo’s poem is splendid and can be read online in French, English and German, at Les Djinns, Op 12.
We’ve devoted several posts to Japonisme and have now entered Orientalisme. Gérôme’s Orient is d’un goût étranger, as in Marin Marais‘ viol pieces. (See Suitte d’un goût étranger, Wikipedia). Exoticism may depict an inner truth in an oblique way, which is one of the characteristics of works of art. Fiction is oblique. Love to everyone.♥