10 Orientalist Paintings by Artists from the 19th Century, with footnotes, #14

David Roberts, R.A., 1796-1864


Oil on canvas

145 by 237cm., 57 by 93in

Private Collection

‘In this illustrious piece of architecture, the artist has introduced a feeling, poetry and effect, which are among the highest attributes of genius. And yet every figure and feature of the scene are studied with the most perfect accuracy. The sun sets on the Libyan hills and, on the lower grounds, tinging them with a pervading glow of ruddy light, which is marvellously beautiful; and on the left is a sheet of water, deliciously reflecting the cool against the warm colour, and hemmed in by straight lines, so as to be as fine a contrast to the rugged and irregular shapes of the mountains. A splendid work.’ (Literary Gazette, 10 May 1845, p. 298)

In 1845 when his reputation was at its zenith, Roberts exhibited the present picture, one of his largest paintings to be shown at the Royal Academy. Its full title was given in the catalogue, Ruins of the Great Temple of Karnak, in Upper Egypt, Looking Towards the Libyan Chain of Hills, Called Baban el Malouk (the Gate of the Kings) in which the Excavated Tombs of the King of Thebes – Sunset. “Karnac is one of the Five Great Temples still Left of Thebes, the Ancient Capital of Upper Egypt. Profane History is Silent in Respect to it, and Records Only its Capture by Cambyses, King of Persia, son of Cyrus the Great, in the Year 526 B.C., and of its Final Destruction by Ptolomy Lathyrus, After a Protracted Siege of Three Years, 81 B.C. More Great Temple of Karnak

David Roberts RA (b Stockbridge [now a district of Edinburgh], 24 Oct. 1796; d London, 25 Nov. 1864). Scottish painter. He was apprenticed to a house painter, then worked as a scene painter for theatres in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1822 he settled in London and worked at the Drury Lane Theatre with his friend Clarkson Stanfield. From 1833 he travelled widely in Europe and the Mediterranean basin and made a fortune with his topographical views.

He worked in oil and watercolour and published lavishly illustrated books, among them the six-volume Views in the Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia (1842–9). His work can be monotonous when seen en masse, but at his best he combines bold design with precise observation. More David Roberts

Enrico Coleman, 1846-1911, ITALIAN


Oil on canvas

57 by 94cm., 22½ by 37in.

Private Collection

Enrico Coleman (21 June 1846 – 14 February 1911)  was an Italian painter of British nationality. He was taught to paint by his father. Following the mocking reception of his Una mandria di bufali nelle paludi pontine, a naturalistic painting, at the International Artist’s Club in 1872, he reportedly began to paint genre subjects in the manner of the then fashionable Mariano Fortuny. At the instigation of Nino Costa he soon returned to the depiction of the people, animals and landscapes of the Campagna Romana and the Agro Pontino.

In 1885, Coleman was among the founding members of the group In Arte Libertas. Coleman had six paintings in the first exhibition of the group, which took place in 1886.

Coleman had a remarkable collection of indigenous orchids, which he cultivated himself at his house at 6 via Valenziana. He successfully hybridised Orchis provincialis var. pauciflora and Orchis mascula var. rosea; the botanist Fabrizio Cortesi named the hybrid Orchis colemanii Cortesi in his honor.

Enrico Coleman never married. He kept his British nationality throughout his life, but never visited Britain. More Enrico Coleman

John William Waterhouse, 1849–1917

Consulting the Oracle, c. 1884

Oil paint on canvas

1194 x 1981 mm


Miracles, magic and the power of prophecy are common themes in Waterhouse’s art. In this picture he shows a group of seven young girls, sitting in a semicircle round a lamplit shrine, waiting in excitement while the priestess interprets the words of the Oracle.

The picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy with the following explanation in the catalogue: ‘The Oracle or Teraph was a human head, cured with spices, which was fixed against the wall, and lamps being lit before it and other rites performed, the imagination of diviners was so excited that they supposed that they heard a low voice speaking future events.’ The setting is probably imaginary, but has an exotic, middle-eastern flavour, derived from the work of artists such as J.F. Lewis (1805-1876), rather than from personal experience. The atmosphere is heady with incense and the priestess gestures to the women to be silent as she strains to interpret the utterings of the mummified head.

Hobson compares the painting’s composition to the shape of a keyhole. As he explains, ‘This refers not to some telescopic view of the scene but to the keyhole shape of the figure grouping, in which a ring of spectators concentrate their attention upon another single figure’ (quoted in Hobson 1989, pp.31-4). The composition, for all its exoticism, is essentially classical. The series of arched windows, the semi-circular design of the floor and the sweep of the marble step set up a rhythm within the painting. This is counterbalanced by the diagonals of the patterned rugs and the leaning body of the priestess, her hand silhouetted against the daylight, streaming through the open window. The women’s varied expressions of apprehension add to the atmosphere of tension as the priestess waits for the oracle to speak.

Contemporary critics remarked on the ‘hysteric awe’ of the semicircle of women seeking the prophecies of the Teraph and the ‘terror’ of the priestess as she ‘interprets its decrees’ (quoted in Hobson 1989, p.34). The Illustrated London News featured the picture as one of the principal works of the year and reproduced it across two pages of an extra supplement. It was bought by Sir Henry Tate, who included it in his founding bequest to the nation in 1894. More on Consulting the Oracle

John William Waterhouse (April 6, 1849 – February 10, 1917) was an English painter known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He worked several decades after the breakup of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which had seen its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century, leading to his sobriquet “the modern Pre-Raphaelite”. Borrowing stylistic influences not only from the earlier Pre-Raphaelites but also from his contemporaries, the Impressionists, his artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.

Born in Italy to English parents who were both painters, he later moved to London, where he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art. He soon began exhibiting at their annual summer exhibitions, focusing on the creation of large canvas works depicting scenes from the daily life and mythology of ancient Greece. Later on in his career he came to embrace the Pre-Raphaelite style of painting despite the fact that it had gone out of fashion in the British art scene several decades before. More

Henri Rousseau, 1875-1933, FRENCH


Oil on canvas

55 by 46.5cm., 21.5 by 18¼in.

Private Collection

The plain of the Triffa is located in the Eastern region of Morocco

Henri Rousseau Henry, Emilien Rousseau (Cairo 1875 – Aix-en-Provence in 1933) is an Orientalist painter. A pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Beaux Arts in Paris, he won the second Grand Prix de Rome in 1900 and a travel grant at the Salon of French Artists. He traveled to Belgium, the Netherlands, North Africa, Spain and Italy where he admired the great masters.

After this initiatory journey, he settled in Versailles and set up his studio at the Villa des Arts in Paris. In 1919 he moved to Aix in Provence with his large family (seven children). Knight of the Legion of Honour in arts. His work  is dedicated to Tunisia, Algeria and especially Morocco, Provence and the Camargue remained its anchor points. His success was with a bourgeois and wealthy clientele, where he sold his work at numerous exhibitions in Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, Marseilles. More Henri Rousseau


Adam Styka, 1890 – 1959, POLISH


Oil on board

44.5 by 53cm., 17½ by 21in

Private Collection

Adam Styka , born April 7, 1890 and died September 23, 1959 in Doylestown (Pennsylvania) , was born in Poland in 1890. He completed his formal education at the French Academy of Fine Arts, and painted closely under the tutelage of his father, Jan Styka. Each year Adam exhibited his paintings in the Paris’ Salon de Paris, Champs Des Elysses and others in Europe and countries of both Americas.

After graduating from the French Military Academy in Fontainebleau, Adam served in the French artillery during the World War I. He was decorated with a Cross of Merit. Also as a reward, he was granted the French “Nationality Citizenship” and a special assistance from the French Government to visit French colonies in Northern Africa. As the result of these annual journeys, Adam developed an entire genre of Middle-Eastern and Oriental themes. 

Adam Styka passed away on 23rd of September 1959 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. More Adam Styka

Amadeo Preziosi, 1816 – 1882, MALTESE


Gouache, watercolour and pencil on paper

36 by 53.5cm., 14 by 21in

Private Collection

The Grand Bazaar  in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. More The Grand Bazaar  

Count Amedeo Preziosi (2 December 1816 – 27 September 1882) was a Maltese painter known for his watercolours and prints of the Balkans, Ottoman Empire and Romania. Amedeo was born into a noble family in Malta.

Amedeo was attracted by the arts from early age and was taught by Giuseppe Hyzler. Amedeo continues his painting studies at the École des Beaux-Arts.

After his return home, Amedeo did not find in Malta a suitable environment for an artist, and chose to leave the island and move to Near East. The year when he left Malta for Istanbul is not known.

The earliest drawings of Istanbul are dated November 1842. In 1844. Preziosi was commissioned by the British Ambassador to Istanbul, to create an album called Costumes of Constantinople, which now is located in the collections of the British Museum.

Amadeo Preziosi, (1816 – 1882)

The Silk Bazaar,  Late 19th Century

Watercolor on paper

Height: 410 mm (16.14 in). Width: 300 mm (11.81 in).

Pera Museum,  Istanbul, Turkey

His workshop was routinely visited by tourists wishing to return home with a souvenir of Istanbul, and among his guests was, in April 1869, Edward VII of the United Kingdom, then the Prince of Wales, who bought several watercolours from him. In 1866, as the new Prince of Romania, Carol I visited Istanbul, he met Preziosi and invited him to Romania to make watercolours of the landscapes and people of the country.

Preziosi came to Romania in June 1868 and began drawing scenes from Bucharest as well as several others across the country. The following year Preziosi spent time again in Romania, his drawings, in pencil, ink and watercolours are found in a sketchbook at the Municipal Museum in Bucharest.

Preziosi was killed by an accidental gun discharge while hunting. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery of Yeşilköy, Istanbul. More Count Amedeo Preziosi


Oriental dancer 

Oil on panel 

54 x 38 cm

Private Collection

Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre, born on 12 May 1833 In Nimes , and died on 18 December 1916 In Paris, was a French painter, and the pupil of Léon Cogniet and Charles Jalabert in Paris. He made several trips to North Africa and Algiers from where he returned with many sketches and drawings.

In 1900, he painted a canvas representing Marseilles to decorate the large room of the restaurant Le Train bleu at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. He created decorative panels for the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Oran .

Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre was promoted to the rank of officer of the Legion of Honor. More Gaston Casimir Saint-Pierre


Malek-Adhel saves Matilda, c. 1830

Oil on canvas

18 7/8 X 15 3/16 IN

Private Collection

Matilda, the young sister of Richard the Lionheart, postpones her commitment to the convent in which she has been raised in order to directly experience the wonders of the Holy Land. She, the Bishop of Tyre, and Bérengère, Richard’s consort, are kidnapped by Saladin’s brother, Malek Adhel, who instantly succumbs to the conjoined charms of Matilda’s beauty and virtue.  Matilda, who has also engineered Bérengère’s restoration to Richard, finds her resolve slipping and her virtue imperiled. She flees through a desert to seek the counsel of a hermit. Adhel, fearing for her safety, pursues her and arrives just in time to save her from an attacking band of Bedouins.  On the return journey, Adhel’s army mutinies and leaves the lovers stranded in the desert.  Believing themselves dying, both lovers make solemn commitments: Matilda promises to take no husband other than Malek Adhel, and Adhel promises to become a Christian. Miraculously, both are rescued, and shortly thereafter, circumstances compel Adhel to return Matilda to Richard.  Meanwhile, Saladin, believing Adhel to be a traitor to both his faith and his country, raises an army against him.  The Christian armies likewise believe that Adhel may be converted to their cause. Religious leaders, including the Bishop of Tyre, argue that if Adhel can be secured to the Christian cause through Matilda, both religious and military aims would be accomplished. More on Matilda and Malek

Cesare Mussini (Berlin, June 5, 1804 – Florence, May 24, 1879) was a German-Italian painter. He spent many years of his life as a painter in Russia.

He moved to Florence as a young man with his younger brother, and there sought training at the Florentine Academy of Fine Arts. Mussini showed promise as a student. In 1823 he won an award for his watercolor painting. The following year his oil sketch was also awarded by the Academy. He would later become a professor at said Academy. 

Mussini moved to Rome in 1828, where he became friends with French intellectuals and artists such as François-René de Chateaubriand, who was the incumbent ambassador, and Horace Vernet, the director of the French Academy.

Mussini returned to Florence in 1832. He was a sought-after portrait artist, with clients from around the world. From October 1834 he began to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts. That same year he was commissioned by Raphael Finzi Morelli to paint frescoes in his house in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. More Cesare Mussini

Carl Haag, O.W.S. (German, 1820-1915)

A family of wandering Arabs, c. 1866

Watercolor on paper

sight: 19 1/2 x 13 5/8in (49.5 x 35.8cm)

Private Collection

Carl Haag (20 April 1820 – 24 January 1915) was a Bavarian-born painter who became a naturalized British subject and was court painter to the duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Haag was born in Erlangen, in the Kingdom of Bavaria, and was trained in the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg and at Munich. He first practised as an illustrator and as a painter in oils of portraits and architectural subjects; but in 1847 he settled in England, after which he devoted himself to watercolours, and in 1850 was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours before becoming a full member in 1853. He travelled a lot, especially in the East, and made a considerable reputation by his firmly drawn and carefully elaborated paintings of Eastern subjects.

Towards the end of his professional career, Carl Haag left England and returned to the newly united German Empire, where he died in Oberwesel. More Carl Haag 

Acknowledgement: Sotheby’s, and others

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Author: zaidangallery

I search Art History for Beautiful works that may, or may not, have a secondary or unexpected story to tell. I then write short summaries that grow from my research. Art work is so much more when its secrets are exposed

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