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Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
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"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
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© Tanos
1997-2016

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"Slave Market" by Gerome, 1866

"Slave Market" by Gerome, 1866

J.L. Gerome painted the Slave Market in 1866. Describing a similar scene in Cairo, W.J. Muller wrote:

The slave market was one of my favourite haunts ... In the center of this court, the slaves are exposed for sale and in general to the number of thirty or forty ... I did not see the dejection and sorrow I was led to imagine, watching the master remove the entire covering of a female and expose her to the gaze of a bystander.

The painting illustrates one of the main themes of slavery in Orientalist art: although the central female slave is stripped naked and subject to physical examination by the buyer, access to her is still strictly controlled by her current owner. One of his servants stands behind the girl, still holding her undergarment in one hand, and a cane of authority in another. The dark cloth she also wears is cast on the ground, but ready to be worn again when her examination is finished.

To the side, we can see two white or Arab slaves sitting on the ground while they wait to be sold. No doubt, they too will be stripped and displayed if anyone shows an interest in buying them, but in the mean time they sit veiled and covered - even confined - by cotton haiks. At all times, access to the slave women of the painting is ultimately controlled by whoever is their Master.

Gerome painted several different slave market scenes, including an ancient scene of the Purchase of a Slave in 1857.

Last modified 15 Jul 05, 12:40 PM by Tanos