Extract

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
£50.00 / $64.21 / 342.36 TL
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£50.00 / $64.21 / 342.36 TL
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