Before I continue to discuss Orientalism, I will quickly show you some pictures by orientalist painters, so that you get an impression. In the period from roughly 1830–1914, the East was supposed to be picturesque, colourful, exotic, beautiful, rich, and above all sensual. The fabrics were expensive, the architecture was impressive. The supposed arbitrariness and cruelty of Eastern despots is a favourite subject (Cormon, Regnault), as is the cruelty of slavery, although the painters show little concern for their fellow human beings; they rather enjoy the sight of a nearly naked woman or boy. Poverty or misery is hardly ever a subject matter.
For many a painter an oriental scene was the pretext for portraying nudity, as representations from the Bible or Antiquity had been in the past. The sensuousness of the Islamic world, the bathhouses and the harems appealed to the imagination in a Europe that by then was very prudish. Only a few knew about life in those harems, but at a time when European ladies were hidden under poke bonnets and crinolines and almost fainted in their tightly laced corsets, their husbands‘ imagination was stimulated by oriental fantasies.
Orientalist painters did not have to travel to the Orient. Ingres spent his life between France and Italy. Lewis painted a very colourful Cairo, while that city actually consists of fifty shades of pale yellow and grey.
The famous painting showing a dirty-looking slave trader who just reveals a new virgin is by Fabio Fabbi. The copy here below is poor, but if you want to see more oriental soft porn by him you may click here or you google: fabbi slave market. The man must have become rich by painting such trash.
Orientalist painters did not have to have been to the Orient. Ingres never got further than Italy. Lewis paints a very colourful Cairo, although that city actually consists of fifty shades of pale yellow and gray.
The work of Alma Tadema, who painted classical antiquity, is related to that of the Orientalists. When he dealt with ancient Egypt, he was also an orientalist.
The Orient. Orientalism and Oriental Studies: the concepts.
The sword of Islam.
Orientalising the Dutch East Indies, or: Pimp your princes. Dutch colonial rulers imitating Javanese princes.
Dreaming of the Orient.