Art History Everyone Should Know: French Orientalism and Romanticism 
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Academic Art, Orientalism and Romantic Art
"The École des Beaux-Arts, in full École Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux-arts, school of fine arts founded (as the Académie Royale d'Architecture) in Paris in 1671 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of Louis XIV; it merged with the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (founded in 1648) in 1793. The school offered instruction in drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and engraving to students selected by competitive examination; since 1968, architecture is no longer taught there." (
In the 19th century the French Academy (École des Beaux-Arts) that David had taken over still flourished.  Artists who worked in David's style continued to dominate the French art world.  The style that they worked in was referred to as "Academic" however they didn't just paint Neoclassical scenes but also painted scenes depicting Arabia, Turkey and India and this subject matter was called "Orientalism."
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Apotheosis of Homer, 1827. 
Oil on canvas, approx. 12' 8" x 16' 103/4". Louvre, Paris. 
French Academic Painting

Raphael School of Athens 1509-1510
Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican, Rome
Form:  This painting is rendered in a very slick and detailed fashion.  No brushstrokes are visible in Ingre's paintings.  Although photography hadn't been invented yet, this painting recalls the photo realistic surfaces and textures of David and Jan Van Eyck's paintings.  The overall design of this image reflects a Neoclassical sense of composition and a Renaissance sense of perspective. The picture plane is arranged in a sculptural frieze like band that takes its cue from antique sculptural friezes such as those found on the Ara Pacis and the Parthenon.  Like its classical counterparts, the image is constructed so that most of the figures are placed in the foreground and even though there is the creation of deep space, the background is not as important as the figures. 
It is also classic in that the composition is arranged symmetrically with the most important figure, proclaiming the oath, in the center.  The use of perspective also focusses on this figure.
Iconography:  The vessel depicts the apotheosis of Homer which is a kind of crowning scene.   Homer is about to be crowned by a winged victory figure called a nike. To the right of the nike figure is a figure who hands Homer his harp.
This painting contains some similar types of elements as Raphael's work.  The figures in the foreground represent important thinkers and paintings from the last three centuries. 
In the lower right hand corner is Isaac Newton.  Above him and to the left is Rene Descartes.  In the lower left hand corner is an image of Poussin, the hero of the French school of painting who gestures up towards Homer on his throne.  Behind the figures is an ionic temple that serves as both a visual and conceptual frame with which to view the work.
Context: Ingres was David's student and came to Paris because he was awarded a scholarship to study there.  Throughout his life he became one of the giants of the French academic style and he was instrumental in maintaining the Academy's integrity despite the competition it had with a style of art called Romanticism.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 
Jupiter and Thetis, 1811
oil on canvas, 130 X 101"
Annibale Carracci 
The Farnese ceiling-1597-1601
depicting the Loves of the Gods
ceiling frescoes in the Gallery, 
Palazzo Farnese, Rome.
Venus and Anchises  (detail)
Form:  This painting falls into all the major characteristics of the Academic style.  It is painted almost photographically, it is symmetrical and textures and the human forms are rendered extremely naturalistically and exactly by using glazes.  However, one of the qualities that begins to show up in Ingre's work is that he subtly distorts or stylizes the anatomy of the figures.  Usually the females have very thin sloping shoulders and slightly rubbery elongated torsos which was the ideal of female beauty at the time.  Iconography: one of the criticisms of the French 19th century academic style was that the uses of classical themes were no longer elevated as they had been in the earlier paintings of David. 
Here we see an eroticized almost Mannerist looking interaction of two mythological figures that looks almost as if it might belong on the ceiling of the Farnese Palazzo rather than in a French 19th century drawing room.  Even the figures are stylized almost in a similar manner to Carracci's works.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Large Odalisque. 1814
oil on canvas, 35"x64" Louvre, Paris
French Academic/Orientalist 
TIZIANO Vecellio (Titian) Venus of Urbino 1538 Oil on canvas, 119 x 165 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italian Renaissance
Form:  This painting falls into all the major characteristics of the Academic style.  It is painted almost photographically, it is symmetrical and textures and the human forms are rendered extremely naturalistically and exactly by using glazes.  It is also very Ingres- like in his distortions of the figures.  Here is a perfect example of his thin sloping shoulders and slightly rubbery elongated torsos which was the ideal of female beauty at the time.  Iconography:  This painting is a European fantasy of what a Turkish harem girl might look like but if she is a Turkish woman why is her skin so pale?
In many ways this painting refers almost exactly to the schema that Titian established in his Venus of Urbino and Boucher established in his Brown Odalisk.  These artists chose to juxtapose the eroticized female form with commodities or luxury items.  By playing the textures and body of the female against expensive fabrics, feathers, and jewels, the artist is also making the human female form another commodity which can be bought and sold.  In this way, the wealth of the patron is also eroticized. 
A certain amount of moralizing is happening too.  The artist wants to paint naked pictures of beautiful French women to appease the "male gaze."  But cannot unless it is a classical goddess.  Here Ingres finds a new strategy to display the nude female form under the disguise of an ethnographic image very similar to a "National Geographic" magazine. 
Since these women are foreign, exotic, and somewhat barbaric it's OK to look at them as long as it's for an anthropological type of study.  Even the photographic aspect of this image supports that this is a documentary type of image.  And, if they are barbaric, we as good Christian soldiers need to go to these places and "civilize" them.
In this instance, the luxury items that Ingres plays her body against happen to be the silks and ostrich feathers of the so called orient are by products of our efforts to civilize these people.  In this way the style of Orientalism is a kind of advertisement that justifies the colonization of the east.


Jean-Leon-Gerome, The Moorish Bath, 1880
oil on canvas, approx. 3'x4'
San Francisco, Legion of Honor
French Academic/Orientalism
Context:  Gerome was the next generation of French Academic painters and in some ways the heir to Ingres.  More so than just about any other painter he follows the same schema as Ingres in both his Orientalist paintings and Neoclassical ones. Gerome and Ingres were both proponents of the Academic style but had to deal with two very powerful new movements in the arts, Romanticism and Impressionism.
According to the Brittanica, Romanticism
is an attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature, painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization over a period from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization, and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular. It was also to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general. Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental. Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the following: a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general, and a focus on his passions and inner struggles; a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more important than strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures; an emphasis upon imagination as a gateway to transcendent experience and spiritual truth; an obsessive interest in folk culture, national and ethnic cultural origins, and the medieval era; and a predilection for the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the monstrous, the diseased, and even the satanic.
One such Romantic figure was Niccolò Paganini,

These drawings of Paganini were created during the 19th century. 
On the right is a photograph of him.
According to the Brittanica Niccolò Paganini was an,
Italian composer and principal violin virtuoso of the 19th century. A popular idol, he inspired the Romantic mystique of the virtuoso and revolutionized violin technique. . . Paganini's romantic personality and adventures created in his own day the legend of a Mephistophelean figure. Stories circulated that he was in league with the devil and that he had been imprisoned for murder; his burial in consecrated ground was delayed for five years. . .
His violin technique, based on that of his works, principally the Capricci, the violin concertos, and the sets of variations, demanded a wide use of harmonics and pizzicato effects, new methods of fingering and even of tuning. In performance he improvised brilliantly. He was also a flamboyant showman who used trick effects such as severing one or two violin strings and continuing the piece on the remaining strings. 


Ingres, Portrait of Paganini 1819
Academic Style

Delacroix, Portrait of Paganini 1832
These two images of Paganini sum up the differences between the French Academic tradition and the newer Romantic ones.  Compare and contrast these two images and see if you can explain how these two images communicate these differences.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 
Odalisque with Slave, 1842
French Academic/Orientalist

Eugene Delacroix, Women of Algiers in their Apartment. 1834 
oil on canvas 5'10"x7'6". Louvre
French Romantic/Orientalist
Both Delacroix and Ingres worked with "Orientalist" subject matter.  Using the ideas that you've read about in this page and in Linda Nochlin's article, try to explain how these two artists are similar and or different in their views of the "Orient."  Do they have the same goals?  Think about how the formal aspects of there work add to or detract from the subject matter.  You may want to read the article below to help you.

Eugene Delacroix
The Massacre at Chios
1824 Oil on canvas; Louvre
Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus, 1827

Eugene Delacroix, Women of Algiers in their Apartment. 1834 
oil on canvas 5'10"x7'6". Louvre
French Romantic/Orientalist
Drinking the color. by Robert Hughes. Time, 1/9/95, Vol. 145 Issue 1, p68, 2p, 3c At the end of 1831, the French artist Eugene Delacroix did something that would change the course of his own art, and to no small degree that of French painting itself. He left Paris and went to Morocco -- an arduous journey in those days, on winter roads to Marseilles and then by naval frigate to Tangier. It was made easier by his connections. The 34-year-old painter was traveling with his friend, a French diplomat named Charles de Mornay, sent to conclude a treaty with Moulay Abd-er-Rahman, the Sultan of Morocco. (France had conquered neighboring Algeria the year before and did not want any Moroccan interventions in its new colony.) The mission, including Delacroix, arrived in Morocco in January 1832 and stayed six months. 
Morocco would change Delacroix profoundly. For the next 30 years, the last half of his life, images from ``the land of lions and leather,'' as he called it in a letter from Meknes, would recur in his work, meeting and dictating its needs; the innumerable drawings and watercolors he made there, along with the dense and (to a modern eye) almost cinematic impressions he jotted down in his journal, were a permanent resource he could draw from. Delacroix had already made a brilliant name for himself with ``Oriental'' subjects, including his Byronic denunciation of Turkish barbarity in Greece, The Massacres at Chios (1824), and that enormous Romantic panorama of sex, death and animal vitality, The Death of Sardanapalus (1827). 
But these were fictions. He had never been to Greece, let alone ancient Asia. Morocco was real, and it bowled Delacroix over. There, he wrote to a friend in Paris, he was confronted ``at every step'' with ``ready-made paintings which would make the fame and fortune of 20 generations of painters.'' And in a sense he was right. From Delacroix on, Oriental exoticism would bulk ever larger in the offerings of the Paris salon: slave markets, dim fretted courtyards, hawk-nosed Arabs and their Barbary mounts, recumbent houris. 
More important, Delacroix's journey south to the Near East would become a model for avant-garde painters looking for purer and more intense experiences of light, locale and color than Northern Europe could offer. Van Gogh went south to Arles; Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and above all Henri Matisse would reach North Africa. ``I have found landscapes in Morocco,'' Matisse claimed, ``exactly as they are described in Delacroix's paintings.'' Morocco satisfied something in the early modernist quest for explicit, fresh, formal experience. And it was Delacroix who pointed the artists there. 
The results of his own journey are set forth in a compelling show of some 100 paintings and sketches on view through Jan. 15 at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, ``Delacroix: The Voyage to Morocco,'' curated by Brahim Alaoui. 
What did he find there? Basically confirmation, in the real world, of the shape of his own temperament. The leader of the Romantic movement in French painting, Delacroix was both fervid and exceptionally contained. He adored energy -- the fury of stallions rearing and biting one another in a stable, ignoring the efforts of their Arab grooms; the flash in a fighter's eye; the tensed muscles of a lion. He drank color: sonorous reds and browns, flashes of green, veils of cold blue -- a palette he had learned from Rubens. But at the same time he knew, as his idols Rubens and Titian had known, that all the passion in the world is aesthetically useless unless it has the container of form: it was his classical heritage that gave measure, shape and intensity to experience. 
Morocco meant both these things. ``This people is wholly antique,'' he wrote in Tangier; its Arab men and Jewish women -- Arab women were not paintable, since they would not remove their veils for a Western stranger -- possessed, in his eyes, ``the majesty which is lacking among ourselves in the gravest circumstances.'' Years later he confided in a letter to a friend that ``it was among these people that I really discovered for myself the beauty of antiquity.'' And not only of antiquity, either. De Mornay was amused to see that when Delacroix was finally admitted to a harem, he became so overexcited that he had to be calmed down with sorbets. 
For Delacroix, this antiquity involved color, as for Ingres -- his opposite -- it did not. David and Ingres had given France a colorless antiquity, an abstracted classicism of white marble. What Delacroix got from the arts of Morocco -- woven and dyed fabrics, leather, tiles and pots -- was a sense of extraordinarily vibrant and free color, ``barbaric'' in French eyes but wholly natural (or so he now realized) to him. 
You see it announcing itself in his watercolor drawing of a Jewish bride in Tangier, whose costume, in all its fantastic profusion of embroidery, overlays and gold jewelry, is suggested in a few washes of pink, vermilion, blue and yellow. He developed it to full pitch in the oil paintings he did later in his Paris studio. It would lead to the packed density of pattern-on-pattern in Women of Algiers (1834) and receive its homages from both Matisse and Picasso. 
For them, it pointed to abstraction. But in Delacroix's case it was supported by an intimate sense of detail. Nowhere does Delacroix's curiosity about what he saw reveal itself more fully than in the Moroccan drawings. He was determined to get everything right, to bring back exact memory in an age before photography: the weave of a coarse djellaba conveyed in thin licks of wash; the violent white light on a wall; a chaotic still life of saddles, blankets and flintlocks piled in the corner of a guardhouse behind a pair of sleeping soldiers, whose robes give them the monumental air of tomb sculptures. The drawings, individually but even more so as a series, express an immense excitement about the world's variety. They underwrote the authenticity of his later paintings, reinforcing their fictions. 
After Morocco, Delacroix lost whatever interest he might once have felt in the mandatory artist's trip to Italy. ``Rome is no longer in Rome,'' he would say. ``The Romans and Greeks are here at my door, and I know them face-on; the marbles are truth itself, but you have to know how to read them, and we poor moderns have only seen hieroglyphs in them.'' Morocco saved him from the abstraction that had weakened French responses to the classic. A painting like his Military Exercises of the Moroccans (1832) shows Delacroix using real life -- the ceremonial charge and fusillade of Arab warriors, rearing on their explosively energetic mounts like showoff bikers doing wheelies -- to recall the truth of energy and immediacy that people must have seen in marble battles 2,000 years before. 
Romanticism: Art transported to exotic, strange places. 1780-1820 n (1823) 1 often cap a (1): a literary, artistic, and philosophical movement originating in the 18th century, characterized chiefly by a reaction against neoclassicism and an emphasis on the imagination and emotions, and marked esp. in English literature by sensibility and the use of autobiographical material, an exaltation of the primitive and the common man, an appreciation of external nature, an interest in the remote, a predilection for melancholy, and the use in poetry of older verse forms (2): an aspect of romanticism b: adherence to a romantic attitude or style 2: the quality or state of being romantic -- n, often cap

Caspar David Friederich, 
Cloister Cemetery in the Snow
1817-19 Oil on canvas 121 x 170 cm
Destroyed 1945, 
formerly in the National Gallery, Berlin
only black and white and poor color images survived
Form:  This painting only exists in black and white and poor color reproductions from before WW II however, you can still get a sense of it from these two images. Friederich (also sometimes spelled Friederich) uses intense contrasts of color and value structure. Color was quite important to Friederich and he has a tendency to use intense and saturated hues.  Often the colors he used are the ones associated with sunset effects in the atmosphere and he plays these colors against his use of dark, earth toned silhouetted forms such as the trees and the gravestones. 
Friederich also often used a symmetrical and centrally oriented composition.  The symmetrical composition serves to draw the eye and he uses linear perspective and atmospheric perspective to create a sense of deep continuous space.  He also does this with the size scale relationships of the human figures to the buildings and the relationship if the building's size to the trees in the foreground.
All of these formal elements are linked to his iconography.
Iconography:  Many of the themes of the Romantic movement revolve around images in which the unseen forces of death, decay, time and the power of the spiritual world are made palpable.
The intense colors and value shifts that occur at dusk and dawn are part of the iconography of this image.  The light that bursts through the missing window frames might be representative of the light of heaven or God which is in sharp contrast to the outlines of the building, trees and figures in the mysterious processional in the snow. 
The time of day is also symbolic.  Dusk is a sleepy and mysterious time of the day.  For some, sunsets are symbolic of decline and decay.  Decay and nostalgia are echoed in the architectonic trees and the decaying monastery or Gothic style church.  The themes of death and decay are further taken up by the tombstones and the snow which highlights them.  In fact the reference to the decaying Gothic style building may be a reference to the Gothic Revival style that was advocated by Sir John Ruskin who according to the Brittanica was an "English writer, critic, and artist who championed the Gothic Revival movement in architecture and had a large influence upon public taste in art in Victorian England."
Context:  This image utilizes many of the standard kinds of images that we are used to seeing in film and specifically films dealing with horror, but for Friederich, these images didn't exist and he is the source of this kind of imagery for cinematographers today.
Three great movies that "quote" Friederich's paintings are "Bram Stoker's Dracula" starring Gary Oldman and Winona Rider, "Frankenstein" starring Robert Deniro, and "Gothic" directed by Ken Russell.


William Blake Frontispiece from 
"Europe a Prophecy"
God as the Divine Geometer c1790
God as the Divine Geometer c1220
from a French Moralizing Bible
Form: In a way William Blake was like a Gothic manuscript illustrator.  Each one of Blake's prints was a print that he hand colored and sometimes even annotated.  According to the Brittanica,
Blake's invention of what he called "illuminated printing," in which, by a special technique of relief etching, each page of the book was printed in monochrome from an engraved plate containing both text and illustration: an invention foreshadowed by his friend, George Cumberland. The pages were then usually coloured with watercolour or printed in colour by Blake and his wife, bound together in paper covers, and sold for prices ranging from a few shillings to 10 guineas.
In this way, Blake's work is both an original painting and a print. The forms that Blake works with are almost naive.  In some ways, his rendering of the human anatomy is awkward and his depiction of chiaroscuro and color are almost unsophisticated.  Nevertheless, the composition of many of Blake's images and the interaction of the texts with the illustration is very similar in design to Gothic manuscripts from the 13th century.
"God as the Divine Geometer" is a symmetrically placed image.  Surrounding the well muscled figure is a kind of nimbus or he could be placed within the sun.  In his left hand he holds a compass used for geometry and measurement.  Blake would have drawn this as God's right but it would have been reversed.  The figure is surrounded by clouds and a black void.
Iconography:  Everything about this image is designed to create a humanistic, intelligent, and wise image of God as a philosopher and scientific creator.  God is represented in the uncreated black void, he is surrounded by an aura of light and he is using an enlightened and scientific instrument to design the world.  Blake has modeled his image of God as the creator from a similar source as the Gothic manuscript shown here with a similar device.  God is then a scientific and logical designer but God is also a humanistic "superman/philospher" in his appearance.  He is bearded and well muscled as in  Michelangelo's depictions of God from the Sistine Chapel.
Context: Look in Stokstad for more context on Blake.

The Tyger Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire!
And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand! & what dread feet!
What the hammer! what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain
What the anvil, what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spear
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see
Did he who made the Lamb make thee!
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry! 
Songs of Innocence and Experience.
According to the Brittanica,
Songs of Innocence is Blake's first masterpiece of "illuminated printing." In it the fragile and flower like beauty of the lyrics harmonizes with the delicacy and rhythmical subtlety of the designs. Songs of Innocence differs radically from the rather derivative pastoral mode of the Poetical Sketches; in the Songs, Blake took as his models the popular street ballads and rhymes for children of his own time, transmuting these forms by his genius into some of the purest lyric poetry in the English language. In 1794 he finished a slightly rearranged version of Songs of Innocence with the addition of Songs of Experience; the double collection, in Blake's own words in the subtitle, "shewing the two contrary states of the human soul." The "two contrary states" are innocence, when the child's imagination has simply the function of completing its own growth; and experience, when it is faced with the world of law, morality, and repression. Songs of Experience provides a kind of ironic answer to Songs of Innocence. The earlier collection's celebration of a beneficent God is countered by the image of him in Experience, in which he becomes the tyrannous God of repression. The key symbol of Innocence is the Lamb; the corresponding image in Experience is the Tyger, the subject of the famous poem that stands at the peak of Blake's lyrical achievement:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
The Tyger in this poem is the incarnation of energy, strength, lust, and cruelty, and the tragic dilemma of mankind is poignantly summarized in the final question, "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Blake also viewed the larger society, in the form of contemporary London, with agonized doubt in Experience, in contrast to his happy visions of the city in Innocence. The great poem "London" in Experience is an especially powerful indictment of the new "acquisitive society" then coming into being, and the poem's naked simplicity of language is the perfect medium for conveying Blake's anguished vision of a society dominated by money.
Copyright © 1994-2001 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
for more on Blake go to

Henry Fuseli  The Nightmare (Incubus) 1781-82
located in Detroit Fuseli was born Swiss and then moved and worked in England

FUSELI,Henry 1741-1825
The Nightmare (Incubus)
located in Freies Deutsches Hochstift,Frankfurt-am-Main.
English, Romanticism,
Form:  Theses two paintings seem to use the chiaroscuro that Caravaggio advocates, however, if you look closely at how the light moves across the figures you should notice that the values transitions across the figures are not as well rendered as some of the earlier images we have looked at.  The anatomy and the realism of the figures is sacrificed in favor of the drama and gesture of the figures. Just like Caravaggio and some of the Neoclassic artists, Fuseli creates a stage like setting in which the figures are pushed up to the front of the picture plane.  Tenebrism is used to highlight the nightmarish creatures that emerge out of the darkness.
Iconography:  The titles of the painting express quite a bit about the spiritual system of beliefs and social beliefs that Fuseli and many individuals held about women, sexuality, and spirituality.  Here is an image of the "weaker sex" being preyed on by the incubus which really symbolizes the weakness of the female and her inability to control her sexual nature.
These paintings are literally rebuses.  The painting takes place at night and in the background is a horse.  A female horse is referred to as a "mare."  The combination of the two terms adds up to the title of the painting.
In the foreground of each painting is a table with a small bottle on it which contains a drug called laudanum.  According to the Brittanica, "laudanum, for example, was an alcoholic tincture (dilute solution) of opium that was used in European medical practice as an analgesic and sedative."  This drug was widely prescribed for females during this era because of the widely held belief that women were prone to attacks of nerves and that it was necessary to sedate women because they often became hysterical.
Opium drugs can cause hallucinations and often when women would fall asleep they were prone to nightmares caused by the drugs in their systems.
Context: Stokstad discusses the link between Fuseli and his own desires that are expressed in this painting.
The Brittanica provides some biographical information you may find useful.
Henry Fuseli
b. Feb. 7, 1741, Zürich, Switz.
d. April 16, 1825, Putney Hill, London, Eng.
original name JOHANN HEINRICH FÜSSLI , Swiss-born painter whose works are among the most exotic, original, and sensual pieces of his time.
Fuseli was reared in an intellectual and artistic milieu and initially studied theology. Obliged to flee Zürich because of political entanglements, he went first to Berlin, and then settled in London in 1764. He was encouraged to become a painter by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and he left England in 1768 to study in Italy until 1778. During his stay in Rome he studied the works of Michelangelo and classical art, which became his major stylistic influences; his subject matter was chiefly literary. Fuseli is famous for his paintings and drawings of nude figures caught in strained and violent poses suggestive of intense emotion. He also had a penchant for inventing macabre fantasies, such as that in "The Nightmare" (1781). He had a noticeable influence on the style of his younger contemporary, William Blake. In 1788 Fuseli was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming a full academician two years later. During 1799-1805 and again from 1810 he was professor of painting at the Royal Academy. He was appointed keeper of the Academy in 1804.

FRIEDRICH, Caspar David
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog 1817-1818
Form:  Color was quite important to Friederich and he has a tendency to use intense and saturated hues.  Often the colors he used are the ones associated with sunset effects in the atmosphere and he plays these colors against his use of dark, earth toned silhouetted forms such as the trees and the gravestones.  Friederich also often used a symmetrical and centrally oriented composition.  The symmetrical composition serves to draw the eye and he uses linear perspective and atmospheric perspective to create a sense of deep continuous space.  He also does this with the size scale relationships of the human figures to the mountains.
All of these formal elements are linked to his iconography.
Iconography:  Many of the themes of the Romantic movement revolve around images in which the unseen forces of death, decay, time and the power of the spiritual world are made palpable.  The intense colors and value shifts that occur at dusk and dawn are part of the iconography of this image. 
In this image Friederich is depicting a spiritual ascension.  Here a so called "wanderer" symbolizes all men's wanderings through life and the possibility of enlightenment through a spiritual journey through the a metaphysical landscape.  The mountain this wanderer has ascended is a metaphor for man's spiritual journey.


Strawberry Hill, located in Twickenham
Horace Walpole and others Strawberry Hill, located in Twickenham, was bought in 1747 by Horace Walpole and over the next 30 years developed into the first conscious translation of Picturesque principles of gardening and landscape into architecture. The building was worked on by five architects; William Robinson and Richard Bentley designed the exterior in the mid-1750's, Robert Adam built the central round tower in 1759, and John Chute of the Vyne and Thomas Pitt constructed interior rooms such as the Library, Great Parlor, and Gallery. While the exterior is the first example of a resurgence of Gothic style, the interior designers drew from models of old tombs in Canterbury and Westminster Abbey and an aisle in Henry VII's chapel. Strawberry Hill, because of its use of many different revived styles, is considered to have begun the Picturesque style.

  According to the Brittanica, Strawberry Hill is the,
earliest documented example of the revived use of Gothic architectural elements is Strawberry Hill, the home of the English writer Horace Walpole. As in many of the early Gothic Revival buildings, the Gothic was used here for its picturesque and romantic qualities without regard for its structural possibilities or original function.
Context: According to the Brittanica Walpole was an,
English writer, connoisseur, and collector who was famous in his day for his medieval horror tale The Castle of Otranto, which initiated the vogue for Gothic romances. He is remembered today as perhaps the most assiduous letter writer in the English language. The youngest son of the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, he was educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge. In 1739 he embarked with his Eton schoolmate, the poet Thomas Gray (later to write "An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard"), on a grand tour of France and Italy, in the midst of which they quarrelled and separated. They were later reconciled, and Walpole remained throughout his life an enthusiastic admirer of Gray's poetry. On his return to England in 1741, Walpole entered Parliament, where his career was undistinguished, although he attended debates regularly until 1768. In 1791 he inherited the peerage from a nephew, a grandson of Robert Walpole. He remained unmarried, and on his death the earldom became extinct.
The most absorbing interests of his life were his friendships and a small villa that he acquired at Twickenham in 1747 and transformed into a pseudo-Gothic showplace known as Strawberry Hill. Over the years he added cloisters, turrets, and battlements, filled the interior with pictures and curios, and amassed a valuable library. He established a private press on the grounds, where he printed his own works and those of his friends, notably Gray's Odes of 1757. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic revival in English domestic architecture.
Walpole's literary output was extremely varied. The Castle of Otranto (1765) succeeded in restoring the element of free invention to contemporary fiction. In it he furnished the machinery for a genre of fiction wherein the wildest fancies found refuge. He also wrote The Mysterious Mother (1768), a tragedy with the theme of incest; amateur historical speculations such as Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third (1768); and a genuine contribution to art history, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 4 vol. (1762-71).
His most important works were intended for posthumous publication. His private correspondence of more than 3,000 letters constitutes a survey of the history, manners, and taste of his age. Walpole revered the letters of Mme de Sévigné (1626-96) and, following her example, consciously cultivated letter writing as an art. Most of his letters are addressed to Horace Mann, a British diplomat whom Walpole met on his grand tour and with whom he maintained a correspondence that lasted for 45 years, although the two never met again. Walpole's correspondence, edited by W.S. Lewis and others, was published in 42 volumes (1937-80).
Walpole also left Memoirs (first published 1822-59) of the reigns of George II and III, a record of political events of his time.


Strawberry Hill, 
Twickenham, Middlesex, 
Thomas Pitt (1737-1793) 1759-62


Burning of Houses of Parliament 
October 16,1834
(painted in 1835)
Houses of Parliament (1837-67) 
Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin
Iconography:  The buildings of Parliament represented the stability and power of the English government.  When the building burned, for some, as in the case of Turner, the power of nature (fire) represented a spiritual one which scrubbed clean the past of the structure. When Pugin and Barry began the reconstruction of the buildings, for them the use of the Gothic Revival style was a return to England's noble and feudal past.  According to Ruskin (a popular critic and scholar) and the architects, the Gothic style was a representation of history and a less complex more spiritually clear time.
According to the Brittanica, The earliest manifestations of an interest in the medieval era were in the private domain, but by the 1820s public buildings in England were also being designed in the Gothic mode. Perhaps no example is more familiar than the new Houses of Parliament (1840), designed by Sir Charles Barry and A.W.N. Pugin. In that large cluster of buildings, the haphazard picturesque quality of the early revival was replaced by a more conscientious adaptation of the medieval English style. Other structures built around mid-century were within this basic pattern. Later, the desire for more elegant and sumptuous landmarks created the last flowering of the style. A fire in 1834 destroyed the whole palace except the historic Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower, the cloisters, and the crypt of St. Stephen's Chapel.
Sir Charles Barry, assisted by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, designed the present buildings in the Gothic Revival style. Construction was begun in 1837, the cornerstone was laid in 1840, and work was finished in 1860. The Commons Chamber was burned out in one of the numerous air raids that targeted London during World War II, but it was restored and reopened in 1950. The House of Lords is an ornate chamber 97 feet (29.5 metres) in length; the Commons is 70 feet (21 metres) long. The southwestern Victoria Tower is 336 feet (102 metres) high. St. Stephen's Tower, 320 feet (97.5 metres) in height, contains the famous tower clock Big Ben. Along with Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church, the Houses of Parliament were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

FRIEDRICH, Caspar David
Arctic Shipwreck or Sea of Ice1823
JMW Turner The Slave Ship 1840 35"x48"

GERICAULT,Theodore 1791-1824 
Raft of the Medusa 1819 
Paris,Louvre French, Romanticism
Iconography:  Man vs Nature. The theme these three paintings seem to share deals with men and the sea.  Overtly all three paintings show the attempt of men to navigate their way through the oceans and the natural forces they may encounter in doing so. 
Turner and Friederich do this by also using electric saturated hues and shifts of color to demonstrate how man is in his twilight.  Both deal with the destruction of ships and man's attempt to navigate through the natural world.  In both cases it seams that "Mother Nature" is winning the battle.
Both images deal with death as an unalterable fact.  In the case of Friederich, he is showing you a failure of man to get to the forbidden arctic poles but it may represent a kind of journey to the forbidden underworld.  The arctic circle is then a symbol of Hades.  This may be further fleshed out by the suggestion that this painting may also be inspired in some way by the death of the artist's brother.
Turner and Gericault are showing man's battle with nature but may also be showing the eventual judgment of man.  The men in Turner's painting in particular were slave traders.   In Gericault's painting the men are merchant marines who are "wage slaves."  In Turner's image perhaps they are being delivered to a different sort of "Last Judgment" again delivered by Nature herself.
Turner's painting in part represents nature about to punish guilty human beings. The full title of the picture is Slavers Overthrowing the Dead and Dying-­ Typho[on]n Coming On, and in the left distance the beholder observes the guilty vessel about to meet its deserved end, while in the right and central foreground he encounters thrust upon him slaves being devoured by the sea and its creatures. Although Turner's painting presents images of fanciful ocean predators, his image of Gothic [196/197] horror is not the product of his imagination. In fact, he was portraying what had become sound business practice: since insurance on slave-cargoes covered only those drowned at sea and not slaves who perished from brutality, disease, and the dreadful conditions on board, profit-minded captains cast the dead and dying into the ocean. As John McCoubrey has demonstrated the artist painted his picture specifically for an anti-slavery campaign, and one may add that he has succeeded in creating a particularly effective image of these horrors. Works as different as Heinrich Heine's 'Das Sklavenschiff', Robert Hayden's 'Middle Passage', and Norman Mailer's Of A Fire on the Moon have elaborated upon the situation and paradigm of the slave-ship, but few, if any, have done so more powerfully than this painting. The closing lines of Turner's epigraph -- 'Hope, Hope, fanacious Hope!/Where is thy market now?' -- further suggest that he was attacking not only the specific horror s of the slave-trade but also the situation of an men in a society whose basic bond had become the cash nexus. [On Turner's politico-economic beliefs, see See Jack Lindsay's edition of Turner's poems. The Sunset Ship (London, I966), pp. 46-9;

Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes 
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters 
(El Sueño de la Razon Produce Monstros),1803 
Plate 43 of Los Caprichos, second edition Etching and aquatint
a web site with Los Caprichos
Form: This print is one of many in a series of prints published as a folio.  (A collection of prints sold as a single work or book.) The depiction of human anatomy and light and shadow in this work, as in others by Goya tends to look a bit cartoonish caricaturish and even at times the anatomy and light are so contrived that they look inaccurate.
The process used to create this print is called aquatint.  According to the Brittanica, aquatint is,
a variety of etching widely used by printmakers to achieve a broad range of tonal values. The process is called aquatint because finished prints often resemble watercolour drawings or wash drawings. The technique consists of exposing a copperplate to acid through a layer of granulated resin or sugar. The acid bites away the plate only in the interstices between the resin or sugar grains, leaving an evenly pitted surface that yields broad areas of tone when the grains are removed and the plate is printed. An infinite number of tones can be achieved by exposing various parts of the plate to acid baths of different strengths for different periods of time. Etched or engraved lines are often used with aquatint to achieve greater definition of form. In the 17th century a number of attempts were made at producing what later became known as aquatint prints. None of the efforts was successful, however, until 1768, when the French printmaker Jean-Baptiste Le Prince discovered that granulated resin gave satisfactory results. Aquatint became the most popular method of producing toned prints in the late 18th century, especially among illustrators. Its textural subtleties, however, remained largely unexplored by well-known artists except for Francisco de Goya. Most of his prints are aquatints, and he is considered the greatest master of the technique.

Iconography: Stokstad points out that this work was meant originally as the frontispiece and remarks that the idea of the image is that of unbridled imagination.  The print was accompanied with the text, "Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of their wonders," but Stokstad also points out how angry and satirical this image and the rest of the images in the series "Los Caprichos" is. The image depicts a man asleep assailed by phantoms.  The image of an owl is often a symbol of sleep, death and knowledge.  In fact Michelangelo had used the image of the owl as death in one of the Medici tombs.  The bats are almost universally icons of death and night, but in Spanish folk tales their is a vampiric creature called los chusas (the sucker which is similar to the modern Mexican myth of the chupa cabra)which is a kind of blood sucking or incubus like entity.  The forces that descend on the sleeping figure are really representitive of nightmares rather than wondrous positive creatures.  The overall interpretation of the image could be that the Spanish intellect is asleep and because of this the monsters of the superstitious mind seem to have too much power.
Context: According to the Brittanica Encyclopedia,
Francisco de Goya is hard to place in the historical development of the comedy of manners. His "Caprichos" (1796-98), etchings prepared by some of the most simple and trenchant brush drawings ever made, appeared in the last years of the 18th century and can be called comedies of manners only insofar as they are related to folk sayings and the bittersweet Spanish folk wisdom. Thus, they stand in the line of Bosch and Bruegel, so many of whose paintings were in Habsburg collections in Madrid. The "Proverbios" of 1813-19 are even more monumental transfigurations of various states of the human condition. Like the "Caprichos," they used the caricaturist's means for irony and satire, but there was little of the comic left in them and none at all in the "Desastres de la guerra" (1810-14, "Disasters of War"), which used the Peninsular phase of the Napoleonic Wars as a point of departure. They are closer to universality than even Callot's similarly inspired series and are searching comments on more stages of cruelty than Hogarth covered. In them, Goya was really a political cartoonist using no names; yet he was hardly a public cartoonist in the normal sense because censorship and other factors allowed only a very small circulation of his later work until a sizable edition was printed a generation after his death. The earlier work, which contains elements of comedy, did get abroad and had influence in France and England probably before Goya's death. Artistically, if not politically, his work would have had the same powerful effect whenever "discovered" or circulated.

Francisco Goya: The Third of May, 1808 painted 1814 
Oil on canvas, 8'9" x 13'4" Collection Museo del Prado, Madrid
Form:  The chiaroscuro and cartoon like anatomy of this image is very similar to the print above.  Goya's color is local but his brushwork is quick and gestural.  The composition is divided into a series of receding bands, the highly lit and spotlighted victims creates the first band or frieze and the back of the soldiers the second. Iconography: The formal elements are also iconographic.  The local colors are drab and dark as is the subject.  The tenebristic flair of the soldiers spot light focuses on the central figure whose pose is reminiscent of a crucifixion.  This literally highlights the role of the rebels as martyrs.  The arrangement of the soldiers with their backs to the viewers creates a symbolic representation as faceless soldiers who are inhuman.
Context: According to the Brittanica,
On the restoration of Ferdinand VII in 1814, after the expulsion of the invaders, Goya was pardoned for having served the French king and reinstated as first court painter. "The 2nd of May 1808: The Charge of the Mamelukes" and "The 3rd of May 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid" were painted to commemorate the popular insurrection in Madrid. Like "Los desastres," they are compositions of dramatic realism, and their monumental scale makes them even more moving. The impressionistic style in which they are painted foreshadowed and influenced later 19th-century French artists, particularly Manet, who was also inspired by the composition of "The 3rd of May." In several portraits of Ferdinand VII, painted after his restoration, Goya evoked--more forcefully than any description--the personality of the cruel tyrant, whose oppressive rule drove most of his friends and eventually Goya himself into exile. 

ar.chi.tec.ton.ic adj [L architectonicus, fr. Gk architektonikos, fr. architekton] (1645) 1: of, relating to, or according with the principles of architecture: architectural 2: having an organized and unified structure that suggests an architectural design -- adv fron.tis.piece n [MF frontispice, fr. LL frontispicium facade, fr. L front-, frons + -i- + specere to look at--more at spy] (ca. 1598) 1 a: the principal front of a building b: a decorated pediment over a portico or window 2: an illustration preceding and usu. facing the title page of a book or magazine
Gothic Revival Style, architectural style that drew its inspiration from medieval architecture and competed with the Neoclassical revivals in the United States and Great Britain. Only isolated examples of the style are to be found on the Continent.
The earliest documented example of the revived use of Gothic architectural elements is Strawberry Hill, the home of the English writer Horace Walpole. As in many of the early Gothic Revival buildings, the Gothic was used here for its picturesque and romantic qualities without regard for its structural possibilities or original function.
(Brittanica) n, pl -bi also [ME, fr. LL, fr. L incubare] (13c) 1: an evil spirit that lies on persons in their sleep; esp: one that has sexual intercourse with women while they are sleeping--compare succubus 2: nightmare 2 3: one that oppresses or burdens like a nightmare adj (15c) 1: of or relating to metaphysics 2 a: of or relating to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses b: supernatural 3: highly abstract or abstruse; also: theoretical 4 often cap: of or relating to poetry esp. of the early 17th century that is highly intellectual and philosophical and marked by unconventional imagery -- adv Metaphysical n (1898): a metaphysical poet of the 17th century
re.bus n [L, by things, abl. pl. of res thing--more at real] (1605): a representation of words or syllables by pictures of objects or by symbols whose names resemble the intended words or syllables in sound; also: a riddle made up of such pictures or symbols
sil.hou.ette n [F, fr. Etienne de Silhouette d. 1767 Fr. controller general of finances; perh. fr. his ephemeral tenure] (1783) 1: a likeness cut from dark material and mounted on a light ground or one sketched in outline and solidly colored in 2: the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass syn see outline ²silhouette vt -ett.ed ; (1876): to represent by a silhouette; also: to project on a background like a silhouette -- n


Linda Nochlin. The Politics of Vision (New York, 1989). What is more European, after all, than to be corrupted by the Orient?  -- Richard Howard

What is the rationale behind the recent spate of revisionist or expansionist exhibitions of nineteenth-century art--The Age of Revolution, The Second Empire, TheRealist Tradition, Northern Light, Women Artists, various shows of academic art, etc.? Is it simply to rediscover overlooked or forgotten works of art? Is it to reevaluate the material, to create a new and less value-laden canon? These are the kinds of questions that were raised -- more or less unintentionally, one suspects--by the 1982 exhibition and catalogue Orientalism: The Near East in French Painting, 1800-1880.1
Above all, the Orientalist exhibition makes us wonder whether there are other questions besides the "normal" art-historical ones that ought to be asked of this material. The organizer of the show, Donald Rosenthal, suggests that there are indeed important issues at stake here, but he deliberately stops short of confronting them. "The unifying characteristic of nineteenth-century Orientalism was its attempt at documentary realism," he declares in the introduction to the catalogue, and then goes on to maintain, quite correctly, that "the flowering of Orientalist painting . . . was closely associated with the apogee of European colonialist expansion in the nineteenth century." Yet, having referred to Edward Said's critical definition of Orientalism in Western literature "as a mode for defining the presumed cultural inferiority of the Islamic Orient . . . part of the vast control mechanism of colonialism, designed to justify and perpeturate European dominance," Rosenthal immediately rejects this analysis in his own study. "French Orientalist painting will be discussed in terms of its aesthetic quality and historical interest, and no attemptwill be made at a re-evaluation of its political uses."2
In other words, art-historical business as usual. Having raised the two crucial issues of policical domination and ideology, Rosenthal drops them like hot potatoes. Yet surely most of the pictures in the exhibition -- indeed the key notion of Orientalism itself -- cannot be confronted without a critical analysis of the particular power structure in which these works came into being. For instance, the degree of realism (or lack of it) in individual Orientalist images can hardly be discussed without some attempt to clarify whose reality we are talking about.

Jean-Léon Gérome Snake Charmer
What are we to make, for example, of Jean-Leon Gérôme's Snake Charmer[1], painted in the late 1860s (now in the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.)? Surely it may most profitably  be considered as a visual document of nineteenth-century colonialist ideology, an iconic distillation of the Westerner's notion of the Oriental couched in the language of a would-be transparent naturalism. (No wonder Said used it as the dust jacket for his critical study of the phenomenon of Orientalism!)3 The title, however, doesn't really tell the complete story; the painting should really be called The Snake Charmer and His Audience, for we are clearly meant to look at both perofrmer and audience as parts of the same spectacle. We are not, as we so often are in Impressionist works of this period -- works like Manet's or Degas's Cafe Concerts, for example, which are set in Paris--invited to identify with the audience. The watchers huddled against the ferociously detailed tiled wall in the background of Gérôme's painting are as resolutely alienated from us as is the act they watch with such childish, trancelike concentration. Our gaze is meant to include both the spectacle and its spectators as objects of picturesque delectation.
Clearly, these black and brown folk are mystified--but then again, so are we. Indeed, the defining mood of the painting is mystery, and it is created by a specific pictorial device. We are permitted only a beguiling rear view of the boy holding the snake. A full frontal view, which would reveal unambiguously both his sex and the fullness of his dangerous performance, is denied us. And the insistent, sexually charged mystery at the center of this painting signifies a more general one: the mystery of the East itself, a standard topos of Orientalist ideology.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the insistent richness of the visual diet Gerome offers--the manifest attractions of the young protagonist's rosy buttocks and muscular thighs; the wrinkles of the venerable snake charmer to his right; the varied delights offered by the picturesque crowd and the alluringly elaborate surfaces of the authentic Turkish tiles, carpet, and basket which serve as decor--we are haunted by certain absensces in the painting. These absences are so conspicuous that, once we become aware of them, they begin to function as presences, in fact, as signs of a certain kind of conceptual deprivation.
One absence is the absence of history. Time stands still in Gerome's painting, as it does in all imagery qualified as "picturesque," including nineteenth-century representations of peasants in France itself. Gerome suggests that this Oriental world is a world without change, a world of timeless, atemporal customs and rituals, untouched by the historical processes that were "afflicting" or "improving" but, at any rate, drastically altering Western societies at the time. Yet these were in fact years of violent and conspicuous change in the Near East as well, changes affected primarily by Western power--technological, military, economic, cultural--and specifically by the very French presence Gerome so scrupulously avoids.
In the very time when and place where Gerome's picture was painted, the late 1860s in Constantinople, the government of Napoleon III was taking an active interest (as were the governments of Russia, Austria, and Great Britain) in the efforts of the Ottoman government to reform and modernized itself. "It was necessary to change Muslim habits, to destroy the age-old fanaticism which was an obstacle to the fusion of races and to create a modern secular state," declared French historian Edouard Driault in La Question d' Orient (1898). "It was necessary to transform . . . the education of both conquerors and subjects, and inculcate in both the unknown spirit of tolerance--a noble task, worthy of great renown of France," he continued.
In 1863 the Ottoman Bank was founded, with the controlling interest in French hands. In 1867 the French government invited the sultan to visit Paris and recommended to him a system of secular public education and the undertaking of great public works and communication systems. In 1868 under the joint direction of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Ambassador, the Lycee of Galata-Serai was opened, a great secondary school open to Ottoman subjects of every reace and creed, where Europeans taught more than six hundred boys the French language--"a symbol," Driault maintained, "of the action of France, exerting herself to instruct the peoples of the Orient in her own language the elements of Western civilization." In the same year, a company consisting mainly of French capitalists received a concession for railways to connect present-day Istanbul and Salonica with the existing railways on the Middle Danube.4
The absence of a sense of history, of temporal change, in Gerome's painting is intimately related to another striking absence in the work: that of the telltale presence of Westerners. There are never any Europeans in "picturesque" views of the Orient like these. Indeed, it might be said that one of the defining features of Orientalist painting is its dependence for its very existence on a presence that is always and absence: the Western colonial or touristic presence.

Jean-Léon Gérome Snake Charmer
The white man, the Westerner, is of course always implicitly present in Orientalist paintings like Snake Charmer; his is necessarily the controlling gaze, the gaze which brings the Oriental world into being, the gaze for which it is ultimately intended. And this leads us to still another absence. Part of the strategy of an Orientalist painter like Gerome is to make his viewers forget that there was any "bringing into being" at all, to convince them that works like these were simply "reflections," scientific in their exactitude, of a preexisting Oriental reality.
In his own time Gerome was held to be dauntingly objective and scientific and was compared in this respect with Realist novelists. As an American critic declared in 1873:
Gerome has the reputation of being one of the most studious and conscientiously accurate painters of our time. In a certain sense he may even be called"learned." He believes as firmly as Charles Reade does in the obligation on the part of the artist to be true even in minute matters to the period and locality of a workpretending to historical character. Balzac is said to have made a journey of several hundreds of miles in order to verify certain apparently insignificant factsconcerning a locality described in one of his novels. Of Gerome, it is alleged that he never paints a picture without the most patient and exhaustive preliminary studiesof every matter connected with his subject. In the accesories of costume, furniture, etc. it is invariably his aim to attain the utmost possible exactness. It is this trait inwhich some declare an excess, that has caused him to spoken of as a "scientific picture maker."5

The strategies of "realist" (or perhaps "pseudo-realist," "authenticist," or "naturalist" would be better terms) mystification go hand in hand with those of Orientalist mystification. Hence, another absence which constitutes a significant presence in the painting: the absence--that is to say, the apparent absence--of art. As Leo Bersani has pointed out in his article on realism and the fear of desire, " The 'seriousness' of realist art is based on the absence of any reminder of the fact that it is really a question of art."6 No other artist has so inexorably eradicated all traces of the picture plane as Gerome, denying us any clue to the art work as a literal flat surface.
Eugëne Delacroix, Street in Meknes, 1832 Oil on canvas, 18 1/4 x 25 1/4"

If we compare a painting like Gerome's Streets in Algier with its prototype, Delacroix's Street in Meknes, we immediatley see that Gerome, in the interest of "artlessness," of innocent, Orientalist transparency, goes much farther than Delacroix in supplying picturesque data to the Western observer, and in veiling the fact that the image consists of paint on canvas. A "naturalist" or "authenticist" artist like Gerome tries to make us forget that his art is really art, both by concealing the evidence of his touch, and, at the same time, by insisting on a plethora of authenticating details, especially on what might be called unnecessary ones. These include not merely the "carefully executed Turkish tile patterns" that Richard Ettinghausen pointed out in his 1972 Gerome catalogue; not merely the artist's renditions of Arabic inscriptions which, Ettinghausen maintains, "can be easily read";7 but even the "later repair" on the tile work, which, functioning at first sight rather like the barometer on the piano in Flaubert's description of Madame Aubain's drawing room in "Un coeur simple," creates what Roland Barthes has called "the reality effect" (l'effet de reel).8
Such details, supposedly there to denote the real directly, are actually there simply to signify its presence in the work as a whole. As Barthes points out, the major function of gratuitous, accurate details like these is to announce "we are the real." They are signifiers of the category of the real, there to give credibility to the "realness" of the work as a whole, to authenticate the total visual field as a simple, artless reflection--in this case, of a supposed Oriental reality.
Yet if we look again, we can see that the objectively described repairs in the tiles have still another function: a moralizing one which assumes meaning only within the apparently objectivized context of the scene as a whole. Neglected, ill-repaired architecture functions, in nineteenth-century Orientalist art, as a standard topos for commenting on the corruption of contemporary Islamic society. Kenneth Bendiner has collected striking examples of this device, in both the paintings and the writings of nineteenth-century artists. For instance, the British painter David Roberts, documenting his Holy Land and Egypt and Nubia, wrote from Cairo in 1838 about "splendid cities, once teeming with a busy population and embellished with . . . edifices, the wonder of the world, now deserted and lonely, or reduced by mismanagement and the barbarism of the Modern creed, to a state as savage as the wild animals by which they are surrounded." At another time, explaining the existence of certain ruins in its environs, he declared that Cairo "contains, I think, more idle people than any town its size in the world."9
The vice of idleness was frequently commented upon by Western travelers to Islamic countries in the nineteenth century, and in relation to it, we can observe still another striking absence in the annals of Orientalist art: the absence of scenes of work and industry, despite the fact that some Western observers commented on the Egyptian fellahin's long hours of back-breaking labor, and on the ceaseless work of Egyptian women engaged in the fields and in domestic labor.10
When Gerome's painting is seen within this context of supposed Near Eastern idleness and neglect, what might at first appear to be objectively described architectural fact turns out to be architecture moralisee. The lesson is subtle, perhaps, but still eminently available, given a context of similar topoi: these people--lazy, slothful, and childlike, if colorful--have let their own cultural treasures sink into decay. There is a clear allusion here, clothed in the language of objective reportage, not merely to the mystery of the East, but to the barbaric insouciance of Moslem peoples, who quite literally charm snakes while Constantinople falls into ruins.
What I am trying to get at, of course, is the obvious truth that in this painting Gerome is not reflecting a ready-made reality but, like all artists, is producing meanings. If I seem to dwell on the issue of authenticating details, it is because not only Gerome's contemporaries, but some present-day revisionist revivers of Gerome, and of Orientalist painting in general, insist so strongly on the objectivity and credibility of Gerome's view of the Near East, using this sort of detail as evidence for their claims.
The fact that Gerome and other Orientalist "realists" used photographic documentation is often brought in to support claims to the objectivity of the works in question. Indeed, Gerome seems to have relied on photographs for some of his architectural detail, and critics in both his own time and in ours compare his work to photography. Photography itself is hardly immune to the blandishments of Orientalism, and even a presumably innocent or neutral view of architecture can be ideologized.


A commercially produced tourist version of the Bab Mansour at Meknes [2] "orientalizes" the subject, producing the image the tourist would like to remember--picturesque, relatively timeless, the gate itself photographed at a dramatic angle, reemphasized by dramatic contrasts of light and shadow, and rendered more picturesque by the floating cloud which silhouettes it to the left. Plastic variation, architectural values, and colorful surface are all played up in the professional shot; at the same time, all evidence of contemporaneity and contradiction--that Meknes is a modern as well as a traditional city, filled with tourists and business people from East and West; that cars and buses are used as well as donkeys and horses--is suppressed by the "official" photograph. A photo by an amateur [3], however, foregrounding cars and buses and the swell of empty macadam, subordinates the picturesque and renders the gate itself flat and incoherent. In this snapshot, Orientalism is reduced to the presence of a few weary crenellations to the right. But this image is simply the bad example in the "how-to-take-good-photographs-on-your-trip" book which teaches the novice how to approximate her experience to the official version of visual reality.
But of course, there is Orientalism and Orientalism. If for painters like Gerome the Near East existed as an actual place to be mystified with effects of realness, for other artists it existes as a project of the imagination, a fantasy space or screen onto which strong desires--erotic, sadistic, or both--could be projected with impunity. The Near Eastern setting of Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus[4] (created, it is important to emphasize, before the artist's own trip to North Africa in 1832) does not function as a field of ethnographic exploration. It is, rather, a stage for the playing out, from a suitable distance, of forbidden passions--the artist's own fantasies (need it be said?) as well as those of the doomed Near Eastern monarch.

Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus, 1827
Delacroix evidently did his Orientalist homework for the painting, probably reading descriptions in Herodotus and Diodorus Sicilis of ancient Oriental debauchery, and dipping into passages in Quintus Curtius on Babylonian orgies, examining an Etruscan fresco or two, perhaps even looking at some Indian miniatures.11 But it is obvious that a thirst for accuracy was hardly a major impulse behind the creation of this work. Nor, in this version of Orientalism--Romantic, if you will, and created forty years before Gerome's--is it Western man's power over the Near East that is at issue, but rather, I believe, contemporary Frenchmen's power over women, a power controlled and mediated by the ideology of the erotic in Delacroix's time.
"In dreams begin responsibilities," a poet once said. Perhaps. Certainly, we are on surer footing asserting that in power begin dreams--dreams of still greater power (in this case, fantasies of men's limitless power to enjoy the bodies of women by destroying them). It would be absurd to reduce Delacroix's complex painting to a mere pictorial projection of the artist's sadistic fantasies under the guise of Orientalism. Yet it is not totally irrelevant to keep in mind that the vivid turbulence of Delacroix's narrative--the story of the ancient Assyrian ruler Sardanapalus, who, upon hearing of his incipient defeat, had all his precious possessions, including his women, destroyed, and then went up in flames with them--is subtended by the more mundane assumption, shared by men of Delacroix's class and time, that they were naturally "entitled" to the bodies of certain women. If the men were artists like Delacroix, it was assumed that they had more or less unlimited access to the bodies of the women who worked for them as models. In other words, Delacroix's private fantasy did not exist in a vacuum, but in a particular social context which granted permission for as well as established the boundaries of certain kinds of behavior.
Within this context, the Orientalizing setting of Delacroix's painting both signifies an extreme state of psychic intensity and formalizes that state through various conventions or representation. But is allows only so much and no more. It is difficult, for example, to imagine a Death of Cleopatra,  with voluptuous nude male slaves being put to death by women servants, painted by a woman artist of this period.12

Jean André Rixens, The Death of Cleopatra (1874)
At the same time he emphasized the sexually provocative aspects of his theme, Delacroix attempted to defuse his overt pictorial expression of men's total domination of women in a variety of ways. He distanced his fears and desires by letting them explode in an Orientalized setting and by filtering them through a Byronic prototype. But at the same time, the motif of a group of naked, beautiful women put to the sword is not taken from ancient versions of the Sardanapalus story, although the lasciviousness of Oriental potentates was a staple of many such accounts.13 Nor was it Byron's invention but, significantly, Delacroix's own.14
The artist participates in the carnage by placing at the blood-red heart of the picture a surrogate self--the recumbent Sardanapalus on his bed. But Sardanapalus holds himself  aloof, in the pose of the philosopher, from the sensual tumult which surrounds him; he is an artist-destroyer who is ultimately to be consumed in the flames of his own creation-destruction. His dandyish coolness in the face of sensual provocation of the hightest order--what might be called his "Orientalized" remoteness and conventialized pose--may indeed have helped Delacroix justify to himself his own erotic extremism, the fulfillment of sadistic impulse in the painting. It did not satisfy the contemporary public. Despite the brilliant feat of artistic semisublimation pulled off here, both public and critics were for the most part appalled by the work when it first appeared in the Salon of 1828.15
The aloofness of the hero of the piece, its Orientalizing strategies of distancing, its references to the outre mores of long-dead Near Eastern oligarchs fooled no one, really. Although criticism was generally directed more against the painting's supposed formal failings, it is obvious that by depicting this type of subject with such obvious sensual relish, such erotic panache and openness, Delacroix had come too close to an overt statement of the most explosive, hence the most carefully repressed, corollary of the ideology of male domination: the connection between sexual possession and murder as an assertion of absolute enjoyment.
The fantasy of absolute possession of women's naked bodies--a fantasy which for men of Delacroix's time was partly based on specific practice in the institution of prostitution or, more specifically, in the case of artists, on the availability of studio models for sexual as well as professional services--also lies at the heart of such typical subjects of Orientalist imagery as Gerome's various Slave Markets. These are ostensibly realistic representations of the authentic customs of picturesque Near Easterners. Indeed, Maxime Du Camp, a fellow traveler in the picturesque byways of the Middle East, remarked of Gerome's painting (or of one like it): "Gerome's Slave Market is a fact literally reproduced. . . . People go [to the slave market] to purchase a slave as they do here to the market . . . to buy a turbot."16

Jean-Léon Gérome 
Slave Market

Jean-Léon Gérome 
Slave Auction
Obviously, the motivations behind the creation of such Orientalist erotica, and the appetite for it, had little to do with pure ethnography. Artists like Gerome could dish up the same theme--the display of naked, powerless women to clothed, powerful men--in a variety of guises: that of the antique slave market, for instance, or in the subject of Phryne before the Tribunal. What lies behind the production of such popular stimuli to simultaneous lip-licking and tongue-clicking is, of course, the satisfaction that the delicious humiliation of lovely slave girls gives to the moralistic voyeur. They are depicted as innocents, trapped against their will in some far-off place, their nakedness more to be pitied than censured; they also display an ingratiating tendency to cover their eyes rather than their seductive bodies.
Why was it that Gerome's Orientalist assertions of masculine power over feminine nakedness were popular, and appeared frequently in the Salons of the mid-nineteenth century, whereas earlier Delacroix's Sardanapalus had been greeted with outrage? Some of the answers have to do with the different historical contexts in which these works originated, but some have to do with the character of the paintings themselves. Gerome's fantasia on the theme of sexual politics (the Clark collection Slave Market, for example) has been more successfully ideologized than Delacroix's, and this ideologizing is achieved precisely through the work's formal stucture. Gerome's version was more acceptable because he substituted a chilly and remote pseudoscientific naturalism--small, self-effacing brushstrokes, and "rational" and convincing spatial effects--in other words, an apparently dispassionate empiricism--for Delacroix's tempestuous self-involvement, his impassioned brushwork, subjectively outpouring perspective, and inventive, sensually self-revelatory dancelike poses. Gerome's style justified his subject--perhaps not to us, who are cannier readers--but certainly to most of the spectators of his time, by guaranteeing through sober "objectivity" the unassailable Otherness of the characters in his narrative. He is saying in effect: "Don't think that I or any other right-thinking Frenchman would ever be involved in this sort of thing. I am merely taking careful note of the fact that less enlightened races indulge in the trade in naked women--but isn't it arousing!"
Like many other art works of his time, Gerome's Orientalist painting managed to body forth two ideological assumptions about power: one about men's power over women; the other about white men's superiority to, hence justifiable control over, inferior, darker races, precisely those who indulge in this sort of regrettably lascivious commerce. Or we might say that something even more complex is involved in Gerome's strategies vis-a-vis the homme moyen sensuel: the (male) viewer was invited sexually to identify with, yet morally to distance himself from, his Oriental counterparts depicted within the objectively inviting yet racially distancing space of the painting.

Jean-Léon Gérome 
Slave Market

Manet's Masked Ball at the Opera of 1873-74
Manet's Masked Ball at the Opera of 1873-74 may, for the purposes of our analysis, be read as a combative response to and subversion of the ideological assumptions controlling Gerome's Slave Market [5]. Like Gerome's painting, Manet's work (to borrow a phrase from the German critic Meier-Graefe, who greatly admired it) represents a Fleischbörse--a flesh market. Unlike Gerome, however, Manet represented the marketing of attractive women not in a suitably distanced Near Eastern locale, but behind the galleries of the opera house on the rue Le Peletier. The buyers of female flesh are not Oriental louts but civilized and recognizable Parisians, debonair men about town, Manet's friends, and, in some cases, fellow artists, whom he had asked to pose for him. And the flesh in question is not represented au naturel, but sauced up in the most charming and provocative fancy-dress costumes. Unlike Gerome's painting, which had been accepted for the Salon of 1867,  Manet's was rejected for that of 1874.
I should like to suggest that the reason for Manet's rejection was not merely the daring close-to-homeness of his representation of the availability of feminine sexuality and male consumption of it. Nor was it, as his friend and defender at the time Stephane Mallarme suggested, its formal daring--its immediacy, its dash, its deliberate yet casual-looking cut-off view of the spectacle. It was rather the way these two kinds of subversive impulse are made to intersect. Manet's rejection of the myth of stylistic transparency in a painting depicting erotic commerical transaction is precisely what calls into question the underlying assumptions governing Gerome's Orientalist version of the same theme.
By interrupting the unimpeded flow of the story line with the margins of his image, Manet frankly reveals the assumptions on which such narratives are premised. The cut-off legs and torso on the balcony are a witty, ironic reference to the actual motivations controlling such gatherings of upper-middle class men and charming women of the theater: pleasure for the former; profit for the latter. The little legs and torso constitute a witty synecdoche, a substitution of part for whole, a trope par excellence of critical realism--a trope indicating the sexual availability of delectable female bodies for willing buyers.
By means of a similar synecdoche--the half-Polichinelle to the left, cut off by the left-hand margin of the canvas--Manet suggests the presence of the artist-entrepreneur half inside, half outside the world of the painting; at the same time, he further asserts the status of the image as a work of art. By means of a brilliant, deconstructive-realist strategy, Manet has at once made us aware of the artifice of art, as opposed to Gerome's solemn, pseudoscientific denial of it with his illusionistic naturalism. At the same time, through the apparently accidentally amputed female legs and torso, Manet foregrounds the nature of the actual transaction taking place in the worldy scene he has chosen to represent.17
Jean-Léon Gérome, Moorish Bath, 1880

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The Bather of Valpinçon. 1808. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France
Despite his insistence on accuracy as the guarantee of veracity, Gerome himself was not beyond the blandishments of the artful. In his bath scenes like the Moorish Bath [6], the presence of a Cairene sunken fountain with two-color marble inlay in the foreground and a beautiful silver-inlaid brass basin with its Mamluk coat-of-arms hald by a Sudanese servant girl (as well as the inevitable Turkish tiles) indicate a will to ethnographic exactitude. Still, Gerome makes sure we see his nude subject as art as well as mere reportage. This he does by means of tactful reference to what might be called the "original Oriental backview"--Ingres's Valpinçon Bather. The abstract  linearism of Ingres is qualified and softened in Gerome's painting, but is clearly meant to signify the presence of tradition: Gerome has decked out the products of his flesh market with the signs of the artistic. His later work often reveals a kind of anxiety or a division--what might be called the Kitsch dilemma--between efforts to maintain the fiction of pure transparency--a so-called photographic realism--and the need to prove that he is more than a mere transcriber, that his work is artistic.
This anxiety is hieghtened when the subject in question is a female nude--that is to say, when an object of desire is concerned. Gerome's anxiety about proving his "artistic-ness" at the same time that he panders to the taste for naturalistic bodies and banal fantasy is revealed most obviously in his various paintings of artists and models, whether the artist in question is Pygmalion or simply Gerome himself in his studio. In the latter case, he depicts himself surrounded by testimonials to his professional achievement and his responsiveness to the classical tradition. For Gerome, the classical would seem to be a product that he confects matter-of-factly in his studio. The sign of the artistic--sometimes absorbed into, sometimes in obvious conflict with the fabric of the painting as a whole--is a hallmark of quality in the work of art, increasing its value as a product on the art market.

Manet, Edouard. Olympia 1863 Oil on canvas
51 3/8 x 74 3/4 in. (130.5 x 190 cm) Musee d'Orsay, Paris
Like the artistic back, the presence of the black servant in Gerome's Orientalist bath scenes serves what might be called connotative as well as strictly ethnographic purposes. We are of course familiar with the notion that the black servant somehow enhances the pearly beauty of her white mistress--a strategy employed from the time of Ingres, in an Orientalist mood, to that of Manet's Olympia, in which the black figure of the maid seems to be an indicator of sexual naughtiness. But in the purest distillations of the Orientalist bath scene--like Gerome's, or Debat-Ponsan's The Massage of 1883--the very passivity of the lovely white figure as opposed to the vigorous activity of the worn, unfeminine ugly black one, suggests that the passive nude beauty is explicitly being prepared for service in the sultan's bed. This sense of erotic availability is spiced with still more forbidden overtones, for the conjunction of black and white, or dark and light females bodies, whether naked or in the guise of mistress and maidservant, has traditionally signified lesbianism.18

Debat-Ponsan's The Massage of 1883
Like other artists of his time, Gerome sought out instances of the picturesque in the religious practices of the natives of the Middle East. This sort of religious ethnographic imagery attempted to create a sleek, harmonious vision of the Islamic world as traditional, pious, and unthreatening, in direct contradiction to the grim realities of history. On the one hand, the cultural and political violence visited on the Islamic peoples of France's own colony, Algeria, by specific laws enacted by the French legislature in the sixties had divided up the communally held lands of the native tribes. On the other hand, violence was visited against native religious practices by the French Society of Missionaries in Algeria, when, profiting from widespread famine at the end of 1867, they offered the unfortunate orphans who fell under their power food at the price of conversion. Finally, Algerian tribes reacted with religion-inspired violence to French oppression and colonization; in the Holy War of 1871, 100,000 tribesmen under Bachaga Mohammed Mokrani revolted under the banner of Islamic idealism.19
It is probably no coincidence that Gerome avoided French North Africa as the setting for his mosque paintings, choosing Cairo instead for these religious tableaux vivants, in which the worshippers seem as rigid, as rooted in the intricate grounding of tradition and as immobilized as the scrupulously recorded architecture which surrounds them and echoes their forms. Indeed, taxidermy rather than ethnography seems to be the informing discipline here: these images have something of the sense of specimens stuffed and mounted within settings of irreproachable accuracy in the natural-history museum, these paintings include everything within their boundaries--everything, that is, except a sense of life, the vivifying breath of shared human experience.
What are the functions of the picturesque, of which this sort of religious ethnography is one manifestation? Obviously, in Orientalist imagery of subject peoples' religious practices one of its functions is to mask conflict with the appearance of tranquility. The picturesque is pursued throughout the nineteenth century like a form of peculiarly elusive wildlife, requiring increasingly skillful tracking as the delicate prey--an endangered species--disappears farther and farther into the hinterlands, in France as in the Near East. The same society that was engaged in wiping out local customs and traditional practices was also avid to preserve them in the form of records--verbal, in the way of travel accounts or archival materials; musical, in the recording of folk songs; linguistic, in the study of dialects or folk tales; or visual, as here.
Yet surely, the very notion of the picturesque in its nineteenth-century manifestations is premised on the fact of destruction. Only on the brink of destruction, in the course of incipient modification and cultural dilution, are customs, costumes, and religious rituals of the dominated finally seen as picturesque. Reinterpreted as the precious remnants of disappearing ways of life, worth huting down and preserving, they are finally transformed into subjects of aesthetic delectation in an imagery in which exotic human beings are integrated with a presumably defining and overtly limiting decor. Another important function, then, of the picturesque--Orientalizing in this case--is to certify that the people encapsulated by it, defined by its presence, are irredeemably different from, more backward than, and culturally inferior to those who construct and consume the picturesque product. They are irrevocably "Other."
Orientalism, then, can be viewed under the aegis of the more general category of the picturesque, a category that can encompass a wide variety of visual objects and ideological strategies, extending from regional genre painting down to the photographs of smiling or dancing natives in the National Geographic. It is no accident that Gerome's North African Islamic procession and Jules Breton's or Dagnon-Bouveret's depictions of Breton Catholic ceremonies have a family resemblance. Both represent backward, oppressed peoples sticking to traditional practices. These works are united also by shared stylistic strategies: the "reality effect" and the strict avoidance of any hint of conceptual identification or shared viewpoint with their subjects, which could, for example, have been suggested by alternative conventions of representation.

Gustave Courbet, TheBurial at Ornans, 1849 oil on canvas, 51x58"
How does a work avoid the picturesque? There are, after all, alternatives. Neither Courbet's Burial at Ornans nor Gauguin's Day of the God falls within the category of the picturesque. Courbet, for whom the "natives" included his own friends and family, borrowed some of the conventions of popular imagery--conventions signifying the artist's solidarity, indeed identity, with the country people represented. At the same time he enlarged the format and insisted upon the--decidedly non-picturesque--insertion of contemporary costume. Gauguin, for his part, denied the picturesque by rejecting what he conceived of as the lies of illusionism and the ideology of progress--in resorting to flatness, decorative simplification, and references to "primitive" art--that is to say, by rejecting the signifiers of Western rationalism, progress, and objectivity in toto.

Gauguin, Paul. The Day of the God. 1894. Oil on canvas. 27 3/8 x 35 5/8 in. Chicago: Art Institute.
Delacroix's relation to the picturesque is central to an understanding of the nature and limits of nineteenth-century Orientalism. He admired Morocco when he saw it on his trip accompanying the Comte de Mornay's diplomatic mission in 1832, comparing Moroccans to classical senators and feverishly recording every aspect of Moroccan life in his notebooks. Nevertheless, he knew where to draw the line between Them and Us. For him, Morocco was inevitably picturesque. He clearly distinguished between its visual beauty--including the dignified, unselfconconscious deportment of the natives--which he treasured, and its moral quality, which he deplored. "This is a place," he wrote to his old friend Villot from Tangiers, "completely for painters. Economists and Saint-Simonians would have a lot to criticize here with respect to the rights of man before the law, but the beautiful abounds here."20 And he distinguished with equal clarity between the picturesqueness of North African people and settings in general, and the weaknesses of the Orientals' own vision of themselves in their art. Speaking of some Persian portraits and drawings, he remarks in the pages of his Journal that the sight of them "made me repeat what Voltaire said somewhere--that there are vast countries where taste has never penetrated. . . . There are in these drawings neither perspective nor any feeling for what is truly painting . . . the figures are immobile, the poses stiff, etc."21
The violence visited upon North African people by the West was rarely depicted by Orientalist painting; it was, in fact, denied in the painting of religious ethnography. But the violence of Orientals to each other was a favored theme. Strange and exotic punishments, hideous tortures, whether actual or potential, the marvelously scary aftermath of barbaric executions--these are a stock-in-trade of Orientalist art. Even a relatively benign subject like that represented in Leon Bonnat's Black Barber of Suez can suggest potential threat through the exaggerated contrast between muscularity and languor, the subtle overtones of Samson and Delilah.
In Henri Regnault's Execution Without Judgment Under the Caliphs of Granada of 1870, we are expected to experience a frisson by identifying with the victim, or rather, with his detached head, which (when the painting is correctly hung) comes right above the spectator's eye level. We are meant to look up at the gigantic, colorful, and dispassionate executioner as--shudder!--the victim must have only moments earlier. It is hard to imagine anyone painting an Execution by Guillotine Under Napoleon III for the same Salon. Although guillotining was still a public spectacle under the Second Empire and through the beginning of the Third Republic, it would not have been considered an appropriate artistic subject. For guillotining was considered rational punishment, not irrational spectacle--part of the domain of law and reason of the progressive West.
One function of Orientalist paintings like these is, of course, to suggest that their law is irrational violence; our violence, by contrast, is law. Yet it was precisely the imposition of "rational" Western law by Napoleon III's government on the customary practices of North Africa that tribesmen experienced most deeply as fatal violence. Nor was this violence unintended. The important laws pertaining to landed property in Algeria, imposed on the native population by the French from the 1850s through the mid-1870s--the Cantonment of 1856, the Senatus Consulte of 1863 and the Warnier Law of ten years later--were conceived as measures which would lead to the destruction of the fundamental structures of the economy and of the traditional society--measures of legally approved violence, in other words. And they were experienced as such by Algerian natives, who felt their speedy, devastating effects as a savage lopping off of the head of traditional tribal existence, and execution without judgment.
A French army officer, Captain Vaissiere, in his study of the Ouled Rechaïch, published in Algiers in 1863, relates that when this group found out that the law of the Senatus Consulte was going to be applied to their tribe, they were thrown into consternation, so clearly were they aware of the desturctive power contained in this measure. "The French defeated us in the plain of Sbikha," declared one old man. "They killed our young men; they forced us to make a war contribution when they occupied our territories. All that was nothing; wounds eventually heal. But the setting up of private property and the authorization given each individual to sell his share of the land [which was what Senatus Consulte provided for], this means the death sentence for the tribe, and twenty years after these measures have been carried out, the Ouled Rechaïch will have ceased to exist."22

Horace Vernet's Capture of the Smala of Abd-el-Kader at Taguin, May 16, 1843
It is not completely accurate to state that the violence inflicted by the West--specifically, by the French in North Africa--was never depicted by the artists of the period--although, strictly speaking, such representations fall under the rubric of "battle painting" rather than Orientalist genre. "At the origin of the picturesque is war," declared Sartre at the beginning of his analysis of French colonial violence in Situations V in 1954. A painting like Horace Vernet's Capture of the Smala of Abd-el-Kader at Taguin, May 16, 1843, a vast panorama exhibited along with six pages of catalogue description in the Salon of 1845, seems a literal illustration of Sartre's contention.23 This minutely detailed pictorial commemoration of the victory of the Due d'Aumale's French troops over thirty thousand noncombatants--old men, women, children, as well as the treasure and flocks of the native chief, who was leading the rebellion against French military domination at the time--seems fairly clear in its political implications, its motivations fairly transparent.

 Delacroix, "Moulay-Abd-el-Rabmar, Sultan of Morocco" 1845
What is less clear today is the relation of two other works, also in the Salon of 1845, to the politics of violence in North Africa at this time. The Salon of 1845 was the Salon immediately following the crucial Battle of Isly--the climax of French action against the Algerian rebel forces led by Abd-el-Kader and his ally,  Sultan Abd-el-Rahman of Morocco. After the destruction of his smala, or encampment, at Taguin--the very incident depicted by Horace Vernet--Abd-el-Kader was chased from his country and took refuge in Morocco. There he gained the support of Sultan Abd-el-Rahman--the very sultan that Delacroix had sketched and whose reception he had so minutely described when he had visited Meknes with the Comte de Mornay on a friendly diplomatic mission more than ten years earlier.
Delacroix had originally planned to commemorate the principal event of Mornay's mission by including, in a prominent position, members of the French delegation at the sultan's reception. Although it exists as a sketch, this version of the painting was never brought to completion, for the event it was supposed to commemorate--Mornay's carefully worked out treaty with sultan--failed to lead to the desired detente with Morocco. Delacroix's projected painting would no longer have been appropriate or politically tactful. When the defeated Abd-el-Kader sought refuge with the sultan of Morocco after the defeat at Isly, Moroccan affairs abruptly took a turn for the worse. The French fleet, with English, Spanish, and American assistance, bombarded Tangiers and Mogador, and Abd-el-Rahman was forced to eject the Algerian leader from his country. The defeated sultan of Morocco was then forced to negotiate a new treaty, which was far more advantageous to the French. Moroccan affairs having become current events, the journal L'Illustration asked Delacroix to contribute some North African drawings for its account of the new peace treaty and its background, and he complied.
It is clear, then, why Delacroix took up the subject again for his monumental painting in 1845, but in a new form with different implications, based on a new political reality. In the final version (now in the Musee des Augustins, Toulouse), it is a vanquished opponent who is represented. He is dignified, surrounded by his entourage, but an entourage that includes the defeated leaders of the fight against the French and as such constitutes a reminder of French prowess. In Delacroix's Moulay-Abd-el-Rahman, Sultan of Morocco, Leaving His Palace at Meknes, Surrounded by His Guard and His Principal Officers [7], as it was called in the Salon catalogue of 1845, there is no longer any question of mingling the French presence with the Moroccan one.24

 Delacroix, "Moulay-Abd-el-Rabmar, Sultan of Morocco" 1845

In the same Salon appeared a painting which is always compared to Delacroix's Sultan of Morocco: Theodore Chasseriau's equestrian Portrait of Kalif Ali-Ben Hamet (or Ahmed) Followed by His Escort. Indeed, in the Rochester Orientalism catalogue, Chasseriau's painting is described as "inevitably recalling Delacroix's portrait," although more "detailed and portrait-like."25 But Chasseriau's is actually a very different image, serving a radically different purpose. It is actually a commissioned portrait of an Algerian chieftain friendly to the French, who, with his entourage, was being wined and dined by the French authorities in Paris at the time.26
Ali-Ben Ahmed, in short, unlike the uncooperative and defeated Abd-el-Rahman, was a leader who triumphed as a cat's-paw of the French. The relationships between the two works, then, is much more concrete than some vague bond created by their compostional similarity--they are actually quite different in their structure--or the obfuscating umbrella category of Orientalism. For it is a concrete relationship of opposition or antagonism, political and ideological, that is at issue here. Indeed, if we consider all the other representations of North African subjects in the Salon of 1845--and there were quite a few--merely as examples of Orientalism, we inevitably miss their significance as political, diplomatic, and military affairs in the inspirational territory of Orientalism, the very notion of "Orientalism" itself in the visual arts is simply a category of obfuscation, masking important distinctions under the rubric of the picturesque, supported by the illusion of the real.
How then should we deal with this art? Art historians are, for the most part, reluctant to proceed in anything but the celebratory mode. If Gerome ostensibly vulgarizes and "naturalizes" a motif by Delacroix, he must be justified in terms of his divergent stylistic motives, his greater sense of accuracy, or his affinities with "tonal control and sense of values of a Terborch or a Pieter do Hooch."27 In other words, he must be assimilated to the canon. Art historians who, on the other hand, wish to maintain the canon as it is--that is, who assert that the discipline of art history should concern itself only with major masterpieces created by great artists--simply say that Orientalists like Gerome--that is to say, the vast majority of those producing Orientalist work in the nineteenth century (or who even appeared in the Salons at all)--are simply not worth studying. In the view of such art historians, artists who cannot be included in the category of great art should be ignored as though they had never existed.
Yet it seems to me that both positions--on the one hand, that which sees the exclusion of nineteenth-century academic art from the sacred precincts as the result of some art dealers' machinations or an avant-garde cabal; and on the other, that which sees the wish to include them as a revisionist plot to weaken the quality of high art as a category--are wrong. Both are based on the notion of art history as a positive rather than a critical discipline. Works like Gerome's, and that of other Orientalistsof his ilk, are valuable and well worth investigating not because they share the aesthetic values of great art on a slightly lower level, but because as visual imagery they anticipate and predict the qualities of incipient mass culture. As such, their strategies of concealment lend themselves admirably to the critical methodologies, the deconstructive techniques now employed by the best film historians, or by sociologists of advertising imagery, or by analysts of visual propaganda, rather than those of mainstream art history. As a fresh visual territory to be investigated by scholars armed with historical and political awareness and analytic sophistication, Orientalism--or rather its deconstruction--offers a challenge to art historians, as do many other similarly obfuscated areas of our discipline.
Notes1. Organized by Donald A. Rosenthal, the exhibition appeared at the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester (Aug. 27-Oct. 17, 1982) and at the Neuberger Museum. State University of New York, Purchase (Nov. 14-Dec. 23, 1982). It was accompanied by a catalogue-book prepared by Rosenthal. This article is based on a lecture presented in Purchase when the show was on view there.
2. Donald A. Rosenthal, Orientalism: The Near East in French Painting 1800-1880 (Rochester, 1982), pp. 8-9, italics added.
3. The insights offered by Said's Orientalism(New York, 1978) are central to the arguments developed in this study. However, Said's book does not deal with the visual arts at all.
4. Driault, pp. 187 ff., cited in George E. Kirk, A Short History of the Middle East (New York, 1964), pp. 85-86.
5. J. F. B., "Gerome, the Painter," The California Art Gallery 1-4 (1873): 51-52. I am grateful to William Gerdts for bringing this material to my attention.
6. Leo Bersani. "Le Realisme et la peur du desir," in Litterature et realite, ed. G. Genette and T. Todorov (Paris, 1982), p. 59.
7. Richard Ettinghausen in Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904), exhibition catalogue, Dayton Art Institute, 1972, p. 18. Edward Said has pointed out to me in conversation that most of the so-called writing on the back wall of the Snake Charmer is in fact unreadable.
8. Roland Barthes. "L'Effet de reel," in Litterature et realite. pp. 81-90.
9. Cited by Kenneth Beninder, "The Portrayal of the Middle East in British Painting 1835-1860," Ph.D. Dissertation. Columbia University, 1979, pp. 110-11. Beninder cites many other instances and has assembled visual representations of the theme as well.
10. See, for example, Bayle St. John's Village Life in Egypt, originally published in 1852, reprinted 1973, I, pp. 13, 36, and passim.
11. The best general discussion of Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus is Jack Spector's Delacroix: The Death of Sardanapalus, Art in Context Series (New York, 1974). This study deals with the relationship of the work to Delacroix's psychosexuality, as well as embedding the painting in the context of its literary and visual sources. The footnotes contain references to additional literature on the painting. For other discoveries about Delacroix's use of Oriental sources, see D. Rosenthal. "A Mughal Portrait Copied by Delacroix," Burlington Magazine CXIX (1977): 505-6, and Lee Johnson, "Towards Delacroix's Oriental Sources," Burlington Magazine CXX (1978): 144-51.
12. Cabanel's Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Her Servants (1887) has been suggested to me by several (male) art historians as coming close to fitting the bill. But of course the scenario is entirely different in Cabanel's painting. First of all, the male victims are not the sex objects in the painting: it is their female destroyer who is. And secondly, the painting is, like Delacroix's, by a man, not a woman: again, it is a product of male fantasy, and its sexual frisson depends on the male gaze directed upon a female object, just as it does in Delacroix's painting.
13. For a rich and suggestive analysis of this myth in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, see Alain Grosrichard, Structure du Serail: La Fiction du despotisme asiatique dans l'occident classique (Paris, 1979).
14. This is pointed out by Spector throughout his study, but see especially p. 69.
15. For public reaction to the picture, see Spector, pp. 75-85.
16. Cited in Fanny F. Hering, Gerome, His Life and Work (New York, 1892), p. 117.
17. These issues are addressed in greater detail in "Manet's Masked Ball at the Opera"; see Chapter 5.
18. For a discussion of lesbian imagery in Orientalist painting, see Rosenthal, Orientalism, p. 98.
19. Claude Martin. Histoire de l'Algerie francaise, 1830-1962 (Paris, 1963), p. 201.
20. Letter of February 29, 1832, Correspondance generale de Eugene Delacroix, A. Joubin, ed. (Paris, 1936), I, pp. 316-17.
21. Entry of March 11, 1850, Journal de Eugene Delacroix, ed. A. Joubin (Paris, 1950), I, p. 348.
22. Cited in Pierre Bourdieu. The Algerians, trans. A. C. M. Ross (Boston, 1962), pp. 120-21.
23. For an illustration of this work, now in the Musee de Versailles, and an analysis of it from a different viewpoint, see Albert Boime. "New [?] Manet's Execution of Maximilian," Art Quarterly XXXVI (Autumn 1973), fig. 1 and p. 177 and note 9, p. 177.
24. For an extremely thorough account of the genesis of this painting, the various versions of the subject and the political circumstances in which it came into being, see Elie Lambert, Histoire d'un tableau: "L'Abd el Rahman. Sultan de Maroc" de Delacroix, Institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines, no. 14 (Paris, 1953), pp. 249-58. Lee Johnson, in "Delacroix's Road to the Sultan of Morocco," Apollo CXV (March 1982): 186-89, demonstrates convincingly that the gate from which the sultan emerges in the 1845 painting is not, as is usually thought, the Bab Mansour, the principal gate to Meknes, but more likely is a free variation on the Bab Berdaine, which did not figure in the ceremonial occasion.
25. Rosenthanl, Orientalism, pp. 57-58.
26. For information about Chasseriau's portrait and its subject, see Leonce Benedite. Theodore Chasseriau, sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1932) I, pp. 234 ff., and Marc Sandoz. Theodore Chasseriau, 1819-1856 (Paris, 1974), p. 101.
27. Gerald Ackerman, cited in Rosenthal, Orientalism, p. 80. Also see Ackerman, The Life and Work of Jean-Leon Gerome (London and New York: Sotheby's, 1986), pp. 52-53.

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