Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-16-2004 11:46 AM:

The Artist's Eye

Dear Readers:

I am somewhat surprised that so far as I can tell, no one has made reference to Susan Day's lengthy essay on the carpet and textile collections of the orientalists. This essay appears in Hali 126 on pages 92 - 104 and discusses many of the same paintings and artists that are being discussed in this salon as well as photos of the studios of several orientalists. I suggest anyone interested in the orientalists take a look at Ms. Day's article.

Thank you, Michael Wendorf

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-16-2004 12:10 PM:

Thank you Michael,

Iíd like to know something about Susan Day's essay before this Salon reaches his conclusion in a couple of days.
Iím afraid itís a bit late now.


Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-16-2004 03:51 PM:

the Artisit's Eye

Dear Filiberto:

Ms. Day's essay may be summarized as follows:

In forming collections of Eastern art to be used as studio props, some Orientalist painters played a significant role in enhancing the status and public awareness of oriental carpets. To demonstrate this point, she includes pictures of studios from the following artists:

Pierre Loti;
Jules-Jean-Antoine Lecomte du Nouy (a student of Gerome);
Adrien Marie;
Maurice Bompard;
Georges-Antoine Roche-grosse;
John Singer Sargent;
Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

She also discusses the very significant collection of Albert Goupil which included some very important carpets that later entered other major and well known classical collections.

She points out that The Carpet Merchant in Cairo - Gerome's painting discussed in this Salon - is the record of an actual visit to a carpet bazaar in 1868.

Artists of the Orientalist school emerged from academies which enjoyed official patronage. They were taught to aim for perfect technique through the mastery of color and composition, and many aimed for photographic-like precision. Baron Gros, Napoleon's official painter, paved the way. Early orientalists, did not authenticate, none even visited the orient. Delacroix (1783 - 1863) was among the first to use actual items as models. Lewis, Fromentin, Homan-Hunt, Gerome all made extended expeditions for ideas and material.

The pictures were rarely, if ever, painted in situ. Rather sketches were made during the journeys. Gerome's companions indluded a photographer in 1855 (Bartholdi) and he went to great lengths to authenticate.

I believe this is a very brief summary of a lengthy essay that discusses many Orientalists, some of their works and some of the items they collected. Goupil's collection was dispersed at auction apparently and it was quite remarkable consisting of many fantastic pieces.

I hope this adds something to the Salon. Michael Wendorf

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-17-2004 03:47 AM:

Thank you Michael,

Well, your summary confirms what we have discussed here and the conclusion I have previously written but not yet posted.

I guessed this topic was already tackled by someone, somewhere - and my VERY limited collection of Hali doesnít include # 126.

P.S. - But I thought Pierre Loti was only a writer!!??

Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-17-2004 10:14 AM:

Pierre Loti

Dear Filiberto:

Pierre Loti only a writer? Well, you are mostly right. Pierre Loti was known as a writer who, to quote Susan Day, "discovered the Orient as an officer in the French navy, and went on to make a fortune from writing novelsabout his amourous conquests. Loti even adopted oriental dress and transformed his house in Rochefort-sur-Mer into an eastern Palace complete with a mosque."

To really capture Pierre Loti one needs to read Henri Dumas. See Hali 36 beginning at page 28. Loti's true name was Julien Viaud and he was among the most eccentric men of his age. In addition to writing, he was also a distinguished photographer and a navel officer.

He also liked photographs of himself. Photographs of him dressed as Bedouin, Breton, Pharaoh, Turk, chinese Mandarin etc all are well known. His motto was "Mon mal m'enchante" or "I treasure that which afflicts me." He built his house as a kind of cross between a refuge and a Noah's Ark filled with objects -good, bad, beautiful and ugly of the civilisations he fantasized about and visited and that he saw crumbling. Can you imagine the parties he threw? He would try to recreate a place and an age and everyone would be required to dress up. There would be the beau monde mingling with the citizens of Rochefort and the sailors who were based at the navel arsenal there at the time.

Orientalism is more than painting I think and it embodies a reaction to many events and realities of the time, Loti was a major player who reflected this in his work, life and fantasies. Partly beautiful, partly ugly and even grotesque and absurd. If anyone wishes to visit the museum, the address is:

Musee de la Maison Pierre Loti
141 rue Pierre Loti
1730 Rochefort, France

It is closed January and Sundays.

Cordialement, Michael Wendorf

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-17-2004 11:15 AM:

Hi Michael,

With that ONLY I meant he wasnít also a painter.
And yes, Orientalism was much more than painting - or art - as the late Edward Said explained at length in his book aptly named "Orientalism".
Best regards,


Posted by Steve Price on 02-17-2004 11:39 AM:

Hi Michael

Was he really a navel officer? It conjures up quite an image.


Steve Price

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 02-17-2004 11:49 AM:

Yeah. Like he was sailing on belly dancers?

Posted by Michael_Wendorf on 02-17-2004 12:17 PM:

French Naval Officers

Dear Steve:

In response to your question I can only confirm that Loti (or Viaud) was a FRENCH naval officer. Perhaps this softens the image somewhat?

Actually, at this time Rochefort was an important French naval arsenal, the largest in all Europe.

Your point that the image of a naval officer, French or other national, wearing heels and dressing up in all manner of costume while throwing gala and exotic parties and turning his home into some kind of bizarre palace conjures up an odd image remains. Perhaps it says something about the time and the orientalists, or maybe about the rest of us?

Cordialement, michael