Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1847 – 1928, AMERICAN
Almeh Flirting With An Armenian Policeman in Cairo
Oil on canvas
55.5 cm (21.85 in.), Width: 46 cm (18.11 in.)
Almeh (Egyptian Arabic) was the name of a class of courtesans or female entertainers in Arab Egypt, women educated to sing and recite classical poetry and to discourse wittily, connected to the qayna slave singers of pre-Islamic Arabia. They were educated girls of good social standing, trained in dancing, singing and poetry, present at festivals and entertainments, and hired as mourners at funerals.
In the 19th century, almeh came to be used as a synonym of ghawazi, the erotic dancers of Dom ethnicity whose performances were banned in 1834 by Muhammad Ali of Egypt. As a result of the ban, the ghawazi dancers were forced to pretend that they were in fact awalim. Transliterated into French as almée, the term came to be synonymous with “belly dancer” in European Orientalism of the 19th century. More on Almeh
Frederick Arthur Bridgman (November 10, 1847 – 1928) was an American artist, born in Tuskegee, Alabama. The son of a physician, Bridgman would become one of the United States’ most well-known and well-regarded painters and become known as one of the world’s most talented “Orientalist” painters. He began as a draughtsman in New York City, for the American Bank Note Company in 1864-1865, and studied art in the same years at the Brooklyn Art Association and at the National Academy of Design; but he went to Paris in 1866 and became a pupil of Jean-Leon Gerome. Paris then became his headquarters. A trip to Egypt in 1873-1874 resulted in pictures of the East that attracted immediate attention, and his large and important composition, The Funeral Procession of a Mummy on the Nile, in the Paris Salon (1877), bought by James Gordon Bennett, brought him the Cross of the Legion of Honor. Other paintings by him were An American Circus in Normandy, Procession of the Bull Apis (now in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and a Rumanian Lady (in the Temple collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). More on Frederick Arthur Bridgman
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