Jean-Leon Gerome’s Mesmerizing Orientalist Paintings…
Before the Audience, ca. 1881, Najd Collection, Switzerland, Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Almeh, 1873, Najd Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Prayer in the Mosque, 1871, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jean-Leon Gerome was one of the preeminent Orientalist painters of the 19th century. He traveled to Turkey and North Africa, bringing back sketches and accessories used to produce his Orientalist paintings, which would constitute one-third of his oeuvre.Gerome’s Orientalist paintings are beautifully rendered with intricate details that are authentic in their color and forms. As with most Orientalist paintings, Gerome’s works are composite pictures that are finished to perfection - a Western fantasy of the exotic East. According to Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website the mosque depicted in Prayer in the Mosque had fallen to disuse by the time Gerome had visited Egypt in 1868. * The brilliant colors, decorative backgrounds and the exotic figures are so splendidly rendered that it is hard to imagine it is in some part make-beleive.
Church of St. Nicholas, Early Christian Sarcophagus, Demre, Myra
This marble sarcophagus in the Roman tradition has a cross located in the Southern burial chamber of the Saint Nicholas Church in Demre, near Antalya. Frescos depicting Bishops are right above it. The top of the lid has a hole for the sacred oils to be poured on top of the relics - an Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Phrygian Terra Cotta vessels with geometric patterns, Gordion, 8th century BC, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara
Tugra (Offical Signature) of Suleyman the Magnificent, 1555-60, @metmuseum
September 30, 1520, Suleyman I. was crowned Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He ruled for 46 years, his military might reaching all the way to Vienna. This Tugra was his official signature which would be painted on top of official documents. The ornately decorated insignia is one of the greatest examples of Ottoman Golden Age decortive arts. Although they slightly varied, the calligraphy of Sultan Tugra’s had an certain set iconography but what sets this Tugra apart is the innoative floral decorations of the illuminator Karamemi.
The calligraphy at the bottom in blue reads “Suleyman, son of Selim Khan, ever victorious.” The two loops to the left are supposed to signify the two seas the Ottoman Sultan ruled over - the larger one being the Mediterrenean and the small one the Black Sea. The three upright vertical lines up top called tug (flagstaff) are supposed to represent independence and the S-shaped lines, looking to the right are supposed to signify winds blowing from the East to the West.
The Tugra is decorated with stylized floral and organic motifs painted using gold leaf and guache paint. The carnations that can be seen in the smaller loop are attributed as being one of Karamemi’s innovations.
This official seal constructed as a work of art is like a precious jewel. I would recommend going on the Metropolitan Museum of Art Website to zoom in on this masterpiece.
Edouard Manet, Portrait of Emile Zola, 1868, Musse d’Orsay
Emile Zola died on this day, September 29, 1902 at the age of 62. Here is my a quote by Zola that I live by….
"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: ‘I am here to live out loud.’"
Isis- Aphrodite, 2nd century A.D. @metmuseum
Isis-Aphrodite is a form of the great goddess Isis that emphasizes the fertility aspects associated with Aphrodite. She was concerned with marriage and childbirth, and following very ancient pharaonic prototypes, also with rebirth. Elaborate accessories including an exaggerated calathos (the crown of Egyptian Greco-Roman divinities) emblazoned with a tiny disk and horn of Isis, heighten the effect of her nudity.
Figures depicting this goddess are found both in domestic and funerary contexts. Popular already in the third to second century B.C., they continued to be made in Roman times. Dating technology places this piece in the Roman period, probably about A.D.150, and the long narrow face and rather dry expression do not contradict such a date. - Museum Label
Gorgeous examples of 10th century Pan-Mediterranean culture
Two Marble Reliefs with Birds, South Italian, vicinity of Salerno, Carved about 900-1100 @metmuseum
These reliefs are cut down from a larger composition and show an imaginary bird, a cock with a griffin-like head, and a peacock set within foliage and amphora. Both originate from Salerno, where they were said to have been built into the masonry of a church. They were reused at a later date, and cut into their present forms. While their original function is unknown, they may have been part of a chancel screen; a low wall in front of the sanctuary of a church. The exotic and orientalizing birds reflect the rich interchange of design motifs between the Islamic, Sassanian, Byzantine, and south Italian cultures in the century around 1000.- Metropolitan Museum of Art Gallery Label
William de Morgan, Plate, ca. 1890-1907, @metmuseum
Known for his “Persian style” blue and turquoise ceramics inspired by Iznik pottery, De Morgan produced glazes with richer, softer colors than his contemporaries. Particularly fond of dragons, he used them, dancing between stylized flowers, to anchor this design. Chief assistant Charles Passenger painted the ornament at Fulham in London, where De Morgan moved his works in 1889 to avoid the long daily commute to Merton Abbey - gallery label “The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy’ exhibition.
John Singer Sargent, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885-6, Tate
This is what August dusk looks like… Life should be this beautiful and good. I love this painting! I remember spending many happy hours before it at the Tate, just admiring the light. When you look at a print or digital reproduction, it is hard to see the glow Sargent has captured. Standing before it, I thought I almost smelled the perfume of the lilies. I was so taken with the painting, I even tried to reproduce the same in my garden, Chinese lanterns and all… Well, except for the little girls in white dresses. Tate’s website gives an illuminating anecdote about how Sargent created this masterpiece…
Titian, Portrait of a Lady, c. 1555, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Levni, Woman in Green, 17th century,Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul
Starting in the 16th century, Turquerie was the craze for all things Turkish in Europe. Many artists depicted their subjects in Turkish dress by using the costumes and props they kept in their studios. Although in 15th- early 16th century some artists like Carpaccio and Bellini had been interested in authenticity, by the late 16th century, the oriental types found in the works of Renaissance painters were just figures used to either represent exotic or biblical types. Titian made numerous paintings of noble women in Turkish dress, the most notable of which is the portraits of Caterina Cornaro, the Queen of Cyprus. Although the Turkish miniature by 17th century artist Levni is obviously later than Titan’s Portrait of a Lady, this type of coat (it is actually called a yelek which translates as vest in Turkish) worn over a diaphanous shirt are the typical Turkish female attire. Women would wear these in the privacy of the harem (the women’s section of the house). The concept of female beauty in different cultures can also be observed by comparing the two paintings. Titian’s Lady is the epitome of idealized Renaissance beauty, maybe even recalling Petrarch’s Laura, while Levni’s Woman in Green has the features of an ideal Turkish beauty with the slanted black eyebrows, almond shaped eyes and a small mouth.*
*Gul Irepoglu, Levni: Painting, Poetry, Colour, Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture, Istanbul, 1999