|"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852|
|"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco|
|"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch|
|"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres|
|"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875|
Posted by Tanos on Mon 22 Oct 12, 9:58 PM
This weekend we had a trip to London, and on the Sunday visited the house of Lord Leighton, a 19th century painter of historical and orientalist subjects. He painted both pretty girls (such as the "The light of the harem") and well-researched scenes from other times and places. He travelled widely throughout his long career and Leighton House features a magnificent Arab Hall, decorated with reclaimed tiles bought on a journey to Damascus and woodwork from Cairo. It's somewhere I've been meaning to visit for years and I'm really glad it has coincided with my sudden return to orientalism.
The house was built for Leighton to showcase his collection, to provide a huge studio space up on the first floor, and to host the parties and receptions he held as president of the Royal Academy and the leading artist of his day. From the outside it is remarkably plain. The blue plaque marks it out as the former home of someone famous, and the roof hints at the Florentine palazzos that he saw as a young man. At the left end of the house is a small wing with a curious little dome.
This Arab Hall is the most highly decorated part, with the tiles I mentioned earlier, the divan sofas in the windows, and a fountain. High on the wall is a wooden mashrabiya bought in Cairo: a bay window that projects out from the first floor above a street or courtyard, but with latticework rather than glass. This admits a welcome breeze in a hot country, and also means one can see out without being seen which is very useful for a harem. Leighton couldn't add the mashrabiya to the outside of his house in the British climate, so it projects into the high Arab Hall, and leads off the first floor landing with another divan sofa for his guests to enjoy.
A similar mashrabiya is visible in the harem of J.F. Lewis's "Intercepted Correspondence", behind the seated figure of the master.