Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-18-2004 03:37 AM:


One of the reasons for this Salon was to assess the truthfulness of the scenes depicted by Orientalist painters, with a particular regard to rugs. (1)

My opinion is that the paintings were reasonably faithful to the reality.

I said reasonably because:
1 - the artists being - well - "artists", they were not committed to an accurate rendering of the reality.
2 - for practical and technical reasons the painters generally had the chance to make only sketches (or, in the best of the cases, photos) of the scenes they saw - making the finished painting much later and in a different location, usually their studios.

Thus an Orientalist painting might present a collage of different elements and different levels of plausibility…

As far as rugs are concerned, I think a good deal of them belonged to the artists and were used as accessories during the "studio" reconstruction of the "Oriental scenes". This is proved by the fact
that we can recognize the same rugs in different paintings by the same author.

Still, there are several cases in which the rugs seem really to belong to the scene. The use of photography by Orientalist painters is historically recorded, and this makes that possibility credible enough.

I had some doubts about the presence at the time of Caucasian rugs in Egyptian or - more broadly - in North-African scenery but some contemporary photos seem to give plausibility to such a presence.
After all, the center of rug trade at the time was Istanbul and it supplied both the West and the Middle East…
If in the last quarter of the 19th century Caucasian rugs found their way to Europe where they encountered a remarkable success, I think they became fashionable in the Orient as well - and the Orientalist paintings show that.

Best regards,


(1)There were Orientalist artists who never traveled abroad The ones under scrutiny were, of course, those painters who really traveled in the "Orient".