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The Orientalist’s Rug

A favourite decorative prop of Orientalists in the 19th century, the Oriental carpet was often painted with extraordinary realism. Penny Oakley identifies the Anatolian and Caucasian rugs in the pictures of two English artists working in Ottoman Cairo

  • The Carpet Bazaar, Cairo, by Charles Robertson, signed and dated 1887. This watercolour reads like an inventory of Ottoman textiles. A green-ground Karatchoph-Kazak rug from the southern Caucasus is draped like a curtain on the left

As realism in painting became the rage towards the middle of the 19th century, Orientalist paintings changed with the times. In place of the Romantics’ pictures of flowing robes and snorting Arab stallions, in which melodrama took priority over detail, Orientalist artists showed increasingly crowded scenes crammed with a plethora of decorative works of art. Fashion had moved away from the elegant spaciousness of the Empire and Regency eras towards a taste for more cluttered interiors and Oriental rugs enjoyed a comeback, as their splashes of bright colour greatly enhanced this look.

A surprising variety of carpets has been depicted in paintings over the centuries, often with remarkable veracity. Recent research on paintings in the 15th to 17th centuries has revealed a wealth of constructive information. Yet the study of Oriental carpets remains an imprecise science. Only recently have 19th-century artists attracted much attention…

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Issue 2, 1992 The Essential Rose
£60.00 / $76.21 / €69.79
Other Highlights from Cornucopia 2
  • The Bee-Keepers

    In the sweetly scented forests of Turkey’s Aegean coast, bee-keepers and their families harvest the royal jelly once sought after by sultans. The late Rosemary Baldwin, herself a royal jelly enthusiast, revisted the fruitful hives of Samsun Dağı, ancient Mount Mycale

  • The Road to Godhead

    With his victory against the Persians at the Battle of Issus, fought in 333BC on a plain in southern Turkey, Alexander the Great changed the course of history and started his transformation into demi-god. But his troops endured a hellish march to get there. Critic and art historian Brian Sewelll tried to retrace the Macedonian conqueror’s arduous route to the battlefield. Photographs by David George

  • A Marvellous Bright Eye

    Freya Stark made her name with her vivid writing about Persia and the Arab world in the Thirties. After the Second World War, already fifty-nine, she started tracing Alexander the Great’s route through southern Turkey. Molly Izzard, her biographer, recounts the discomforts and discoveries of her five punishing journeys

  • The Essential Rose

    No flower has a more distinguished culinary history than the rose. To capture its elusive fragrange, people have infused scented petals in sugar, honey, wine, oil, vinegar, syrup, milk or plain water.
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  • Byzantine Romantic

    Linda Kelly tells the story of André Chénier, father of French Romantic poetry, who was born in Galata, the Genoese quarter of Istanbul. Executed during the Paris Terror, Chénier produced some of the most moving documents of the Revolution

Buy the issue
Issue 2, 1992 The Essential Rose
£60.00 / $76.21 / 2,521.56 TL
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