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Ref. 1291

Important Orientalist mirror

France

Circa 1870

Height : 270 cm (106 1/4 in.) ; Width : 117 cm (46 in.) ; Depth : 14 cm (5 1/2 in.)

An important carved and waxed oakwood Orientalist mirror.

The term Orientalism appeared around 1830 while the 17th and 18th centuries had developed with great fantasy the « turquerie » theme. The taste for exotic and pittoresque subjects could even be found in the decoration of private apartments of Queen Marie-Antoinette and Count of Artois in the late 1780’s. But it was truly during the 19th century, with the expedition to Egypt led by Bonaparte from 1798, that the East attracted artists and collectors with beauty, eroticism, light and the fascination of the exotic oriental mystery. However the storming of Algiers by French troops in 1830 marked the act of birth of the artistic movement since the term of Orientalism appeared at this time.

In France, it was really under the Second Empire, that the Orientalist artists were pushed into the lime light. Emperor Napoleon III himself, the aristocrats as well as the wealthy bourgeois in search of exotic feelings commissioned the most renowned artists. This wasn’t the mostly academic style used by the Orientalists but their exotic subjects they gave to see to the fascinated audience, such as the sculptors Charles Cordier (1827-1905), who innovated by combining polychrome marbles with Algerian onyx, and Emile Guillemin (1841-1907), whose works were published by the great founder Ferdinand Barbedienne (1810-1892). These artists led scientific missions toward the East, with the aim of helping to identify various cultures in a multi-ethnic civilization. The naturalist and documentary approach reveals a political and cultural will to keep track of these geographical and anthropological evidence.

This term of Orientalism was also expressed in architecture and the decorative arts under qualified terms of “Arab” and “Moorish” or “exotic” styles. The cultural and geographical area of Orientalist reference extends from India to Spain via the North African countries, Egypt and Turkey.

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