Modern day slaves of the Tuaregs in Niger
These women wear heavy brass anklets to show their status as slaves of the Tuareg tribesmen who have controlled the region for generations. These nomadic tribes used to trade surplus and captured slaves across the Sahara desert to North Africa, including Egypt, and beyond to the rest of the Ottoman Empire. [more...
Brass Turkish delight bowl in the hareem
This traditional style brass Turkish Delight bowl from Istanbul keeps its contents from drying out (as if it lasts that long uneaten!) and works well with a paper cupcake case to catch the icing sugar that accumulates. The box of Alaeddin Turkish Delight was bought in Istanbul too, and is what you find in corner shops and supermarkets there. It does appear in the UK as well, but supermarkets here sell own-brand Turkish Delight in the Turkish style (as well as all the Fry's bars in a different section!) [more...
"A harem beauty" by Francesc Masriera
A slave kept for pleasure lazes in the harem, with her loose, sheer, flimsy clothing revealing her body in various ways: one bare breast, her thighs visible through the gauze, her curves highlighted, and even the slippers she is permitted cover little more than her toes. [more...
Rubaiyat illustration by Edmund Dulac
One of Dulac's illustrations for Edward FitzGerald's "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". A barefoot slave-girl carries a vase of wine for her master out into a courtyard.
"Sultan Mahmud" by Edmund Dulac
One of Dulac's illustrations for Edward FitzGerald's "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". The image is associated with this verse: "With me along the strip of Herbage strown //
That just divides the desert from the sown, //
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot - //
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne!"
"The public scribe" by Ferdinand Max Bredt
Similar to Lewis's "Arab scribe"
, Bredt's painting shows a woman and her servant visiting a scribe to have a letter written. The servant is emphasising something that must be said with her hand, whilst her mistress sits back listening and looking rather preoccupied. Their status is confirmed by the patten clogs of differing heights and decoration discarded at the bottom right of the image.
"A Harem Beauty" by Max Von Bredt
An odalisque lazes in the courtyard of a harem, while a slave plays her music. In the background, more servants are fetching drinks or food on trays or working with a spinning wheel, in contrast to the odalisque's idleness.
Two women of Algeria, c.1854
This is one of the earliest photographs of women in the reclining odalisque pose used so often in paintings of harems and later photographs. It was taken in Algeria in about 1854, only a few years after photography became widespread in the 1840s. It's not known who took the picture, but it was distributed by Marville in France as part of his collection of images one could buy in Paris.
"Odalisque" by Miklos Mihalovits
Titled "Odalisque", but I think this is a slave dealer showing a girl before prospective buyers, only for her to turn away in fear or despair at her situation. It doesn't help that she is naked and vulnerable apart from a rag of linen tied around her waist, as the dealer's hand lingers over her bare hip.
"The Minister of Wine" by Edmund Dulac
One of Dulac's illustrations for Edward FitzGerald's "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam". The poet caresses the hair ("tresses") of a servant carrying the wine (the "Minister of Wine", as minister originally meant servant) who is slender as a Cypress tree: "Oh, plagued no more with Human or Divine, // To-morrow's tangle to itself resign, // And lose your fingers in the tresses of // The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine."
"The Offering" by Rene Bull
Apart from being a Rene Bull illustration for the Arabian Nights, I've not been able to identify which story this image depicts. Does anyone have any ideas?
Scheherazade and Shahryar by Rene Bull
One of Rene Bull's "Arabian Nights" book illustrations, showing the cunning Scheherazade with the vengeful king Shahryar who has been marrying then killing a new bride every day after his first wife's betrayal. In the foreground is Scheherazade's sister, Dinazade, who will also die if Scheherazade's plan to tell the king another part of a story every night fails.
"The Arab scribe" by J.F. Lewis
John Frederick Lewis's 1852 painting of an Egyptian girl and her servant visit a scribe, perhaps to have a letter written. But what is the book? It looks as if it has an illustration of some sort. Perhaps the scribe is copying some part of the book for them? A recipe? A love potion? Lewis painted this image a couple of years after returning to England from a decade in Cairo where public scribes who would be paid to write letters for the illiterate would have been a common sight.
Odalisque pose by Claude-Joseph Portier, Algiers, 1870s
This image shows an Algerian girl in the classic odalisque pose featured by painters in the same period.
Portier ran a photographic studio in the capital of the French colony of Algeria, during the 1860s and 1870s. As well as images produced for sale back in France, he photographed people who wanted portraits and made expeditions to record the Algerian countryside and landscapes.
"In the presence of the master" by Francesc Masriera
My best guess is that she is a harem slave coming into the presence of her owner, with her plunging neckline revealing her breasts to underline her sexual subservience to him. There may also be a tear on her right cheek and her lips look as if they're trembling. Maybe this is her first time? Or perhaps his previous attentions are all too fresh in her memory? Or are they tears of joy at being noticed again? [more...
"The Odalisque" by Maria Fortuny
Fortuny's painting shows an odalisque who is naked apart from her jewels, laid out on a divan for the pleasure of her master who is playing a musical instrument himself. He seems rather absorbed by his music, and she appears to be reaching out for his attention. [more...
Rubaiyat illustration by Edmund Dulac
A slave-girl with a vase of wine waits on the poet and his friends. The image is associated with this verse: "And when Yourself with silver Foot shall pass // Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass, // And in your joyous errand rench the spot // Where I made One - turn down an empty Glass!"
Morgiana kills the forty thieves, by Rene Bull
The clever and loyal slave-girl Morgiana pours boiling oil into each of the jars containing a hidden thief as part of their conspiracy against her master, in the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from the Arabian Nights.
"The Koran reader" by Frank Buchser
Buchser visited Morocco several times, painting general street scenes before this image of a man vainly trying to read the Koran, as his half-naked slave girl sits at his feet and tempts him with a juicy slice of water melon.
By Iliya Repin, 1876
This woman has put down the water pipe she has been smoking on her tray of coffee, and boldly looks at the viewer. She is decked out with heavy gold jewellery and her casually placed hands suggest she is confident about her position.