Sotheby’s Orientalist Sale brings together paintings of North Africa, Egypt, Arabia, the Levant, Persia and the Ottoman world

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Newsgate360 – Dubai: Sotheby’s Orientalist Sale, now in its ninth season and held during Islamic week, brings together paintings representing the landscapes, people, and customs of North Africa, Egypt, Arabia, the Levant, Persia, and the Ottoman world during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Comprising 57 lots, the sale provides a unique window into a realm that has forever changed, capturing in technicolour detail every aspect of life in the region. The auction will take place in London on 31 March at 3pm GMT, to be followed by Important Works from the Najd Collection, Part II, at 5pm


Raphael von Ambros (Austrian, 1845-1895), Awaiting the Prayer in the Mosque of Sultan Qalawun, oil on panel, 1887, est. £80,000-120,000 ($105,000-157,000)

Captured in minute photographic detail, this tranquil scene shows a Nubian guard awaiting the hour of prayer outside a Cairene mosque. Seated on an Ottoman mother-of-pearl inlaid calligrapher’s chest, and with a flintlock gun in hand, the guard’s iridescent green silt gown mirrors the jade green incense holder beneath the large copper incense burner.

 Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904), Seated Arnaut, oil on panel, 1857, est. £60,000-80,000 ($78,500-105,000)

The subject of Arnauts – the mercenaries employed by the Ottoman army – was of particular interest to Gérôme, pervading his work from the late 1850s onwards. In this painting, last offered at auction fifty years ago, the Arnaut is glimpsed off guard in a moment of reflection.

Charles Wilda (Austrian,1854-1907), A Game of Chess, Cairo, oil on panel, 1888, est. £80,000-120,000 ($105,000-157,000)

Like many of his fellow Orientalist painters, Wilda travelled to Egypt in the early 1880s and set up a studio in Cairo where he developed a keen interest for the depiction of everyday Egyptian life.


Henriette Browne (French, 1829-1901), A Visit: A Harem Interior, oil on canvas, est. £50,000-70,000 ($65,500-91,500)

This rare and important painting is by one of the few female Orientalist painters active in the nineteenth century. The harem was a sophisticated social space inaccessible to male eyes, and therefore so often the subject of hackneyed, voyeuristic, depictions. By virtue of being painted by a woman, the picture provides a greater understanding of the workings of the harem. Henriette Browne, the English professional pseudonym of Sophie De Saux, accompanied her diplomat husband to Constantinople for a fortnight in 1860. Set in a minimalist interior, Browne’s painting depicts the visit of one harem to another.

Fausto Zonaro (Italian, 1854-1929), On the Galata Bridge, Constantinople, oil on canvas, est. £200,000-300,000 ($261,000-392,000)

Zonaro’s view across the Galata Bridge spanning the Golden Horn, with the dome and minarets of the New Mosque beyond, has the qualities of a photographic snapshot of Constantinople’s bustling street life. The artist had moved to the city in 1891, and the last Ottoman sultan, Abdül Hamid II, appointed him painter to his court. Thanks to the sultan’s patronage, Zonaro was able to explore every corner of the city undisturbed, including religious festivals that would have otherwise been forbidden to him.

Théodore Gudin (French, 1802-1880), The Golden Horn, oil on canvas, 1851, est. £80,000-120,000 ($105,000-157,000)

Gudin’s painting of the Golden Horn predates the building of the Galata bridge, and takes in the majestic skyline of the Old City, including the New Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque in the distance.


Georges Bretagnier (French, 1860-1892), The Hour of Prayer, Tangier, oil on canvas, 1892, est. £80,000-120,000 ($105,000-157,000)

Bretagnier first visited North Africa at the end of 1884 where he remained until the following summer. Hugely influenced by what he found, he took to dressing in the local costume in order to mix more easily with the locals, sporting a djellaba and travelling by donkey. In this work, an Imam wearing an emerald green gown leads a group of men in prayer in the mosque of El-Kasbah in Tangier.

Jacques Majorelle (French, 1886-1962), Moussem in Moula Dourein, Essaouira (Morocco), tempera on canvas, est. £100,000-150,000 (est. $131,000-196,000) [illustrated below]; Procession before a Kasbah, tempera on canvas, est. £50,000-70,000 ($59,500-83,000) [illustrated left]

Majorelle produced modern, rich, and colourful works which revolutionised the Orientalist tradition. Painted in 1940, this is one of seven works by Majorelle depicting the moussem (festival) in the port of Moula Dourein. The setting for Procession before a Kasbah appears to be Anemiter (or Anmiter) in the High Atlas mountains.

Lucian Lévy-Dhurmer (French,1865-1953), Rabat, oil on canvas, 1931, est. £40,000-60,000 ($52,500-78,500) [illustrated left]; Les Roses d’Ispahan, oil on canvas, est. £40,000-60,000 ($52,500-78,500)

As a native of Algiers, North Africa held a special place in Lévy-Dhurmer’s heart and was the source of inspiration for breath-taking views of which these two works are prime examples.


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