Five pieces we want to own from the upcoming Orientalist Sale at Sotheby’s

Find out why any one of these pieces would make a superb addition to your art collection

by Sally Otman

Lifestyle 23 April 2018

The seventh season of the Orientalist Sale by Sotheby’s is happening today in London. Comprising over 60 lots, this year’s sale has some pretty amazing works, all of which we wouldn’t mind owning – not just as investment pieces we would keep hidden in some safe but to show off in our parlour, as the feature piece in our dinning rooms or our office.

Even if the price tags on these pieces are out of your budget, you can always use them as sources of inspiration. Have a look at our five picks for our favourite pieces and what about them we find arresting and beautiful.

Women outside the Sidi Abderrahman Mosque

Anders Zorn (Swedish, 1860 – 1920)
Women Outside the Sidi Abderrahman Mosque, Algiers, 1887,
watercolour and gouache on paper Estimate £300,000-500,000 / $420,000-700,000

Women Outside the Sidi Abderrahman Mosque is a rediscovered work piece that belongs to the small series of watercolours Zorn made in Algiers. He created the series during a journey through Constantinople, Greece, Italy, and North Africa with his wife Emma. Here Zorn depicts the Sidi Abderrahman Mosque, named after the Algerian Muslim scholar who spent 95 years of his life serving Islam and Muslims and wrote 100 books on Islam. Zorn’s painting depicts his skill in watercolour which first brought him fame. The white exterior of the building and the figures clothing, the leaning tree and the descending steps – composition and colour is completly mesmerising.

A Sultan at Prayer

Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824 – 1904)
A Sultan at Prayer, 1887, oil on canvas
Estimate £200,000-300,000 / $280,000-420,000

The realism of this painting along with Jean-Léon Gérôme’s strategic use of colour. The recently discovered work by Gérôme is wonderful and respectful observation of the high-ranking man in mid prayer. A Sultan at Prayer stands out from a lot of Gérôme’s work because of the frontal view of the figure. Often worshippers are depicted from behind or in profile. The theme of worship and Muslim prayer has fascinated Gérôme and dominated the work he created in Constantinople in 1852, and Egypt in 1856. We love the detail of the silken robes and fur gown of the Sultan contrasted against the darkened yet architecturally distinctive backdrop.

Bashi-bazouks before a Gateway

Paul Joanowits (Serbian, 1859 – 1957)
Bashi-bazouks before a Gateway, oil on panel
Estimate £100,000-150,000 / $140,000-210,000

There is something arresting about the realistic way these two soldiers aren’t only painted in their surroundings but in how Joanowits managed to depict their interactions. The soldiers are Bashi-bazouks, irregulars in the Ottoman army who came from all over the Ottoman empire. Sitting in their full regalia the soldiers are conversing with each other in a calm and reclined manner within an Egyptian setting. The  gate behind them is topped by Mamluk carvings and flanked by East African ‘Grandees’ chairs’, amalgams of Mamluk, Portuguese and Indian influence.

A Souk in Cairo

Charles Wilda (German, 1854 – 1907)
A Souk in Cairo, 1887, oil on panel
Estimate £120,000-180,000 / $168,000-252,000

Charles Wilda’s A Souk in Cairo depicts a street view of Cairo which helped to inform European viewers on what the famous city may have been like in the nineteenth-century. Again as is typical of most Orientalist painting, the photo realistic detail is enamouring. There is both clamour and serenity in the scene from women carrying water jugs going about their business and the strangely calm snake charmers sitting on the ground. Wilda travelled to Egypt in the early 1880s, set up a studio in Cairo and mainly crated work that depicted everyday life in Egypt.

Rabat (The Red Gate)

Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849 – 1903)
Rabat (The Red Gate), 1879, oil on canvas
Estimate £200,000-300,000 / $280,000-420,000

Looking at Rabat (The Red Gate) by Edwin Lord Weeks, you get the sense of an epic piece of work. The image is arresting for its peculiar angle, impressionist style and the effect of light depicting the inner gate of the Kasbah of Oudaïas in Rabat. Weeks was fascinated by the Kasbah, a fortified citadel built in the twelfth century during the time of the Almohad Caliphate (AD 1121-1269). The gate was a the example of highly ornamented Almohad architecture, characterised by a horse-shoe arch and intertwined arabesques conveying grandeur.

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