"Bound slave girl brought before a sheikh" by Leopold Carl Muller (1834-92)
A half naked female slave with her hands tied behind her back is brought before a seated male figure and forced to her knees. It looks as if she's been dragged in by her hair. Why is she being handled so roughly? Is she new and untamed? Has she attempted to runaway? Has she been caught in some act of grave disobedience?
"The harem dance" by Giulo Rosati
Rosati's paintings is one of the few of the Orientalists' works to show dancing in a harem, rather than before a group of men. It was possible for western painters to see paid dancers, who could be hired to dance at weddings or parties, and who often worked in cafes, but harems were necessarily inaccessible. Here a bare-breasted girl dances before the master of the harem, surrounded by his other women who are playing tambourines, watching, or just chatting. This painting is in contrast to Rosati's painting The Dance
in which a group of men are [more...
"The Nautch" by Edwin Lord Weeks
Nautch girls were originally trained dancers in India under the rule of the Islamic Mughal kingdoms, and frequently slaves. They could be hired to perform for men, given as gifts, purchased to adorn a man's harem, or even become free and independent performers. Weeks' painting shows a nautch girl dancing for the raja sat on a raised seat, surrounded by his court.
"Trade in the desert" by Otto Pilny, 1913
The Swiss artist Otto Pilny traveled to Egypt twice as a young man and spent some of his time with Bedouin in the desert. He painted more than a dozen variations on the theme of slaves being sold in desert encampments, including this scene from 1913. Two Bedouin are haggling about the worth of two slave girls and a necklace. Both slaves are bound: one with bowed head and a leather thong around her arms and body; the other with half a yard of leather between her wrists.
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
An odalisque waits after being chosen and prepared for the sultan's pleasure. The slave's naked body has been adorned with gold chains, bangles, and anklets, then draped in a transparent full body veil.
"Leila" or "Passion" by Frank Dicksee, 1892
Frank Dicksee's smouldering 1892 painting is called both "Passion" and "Leila", presumably after the girl of Arabic folklore who was loved by a poet but forever kept apart from him by her father.
Wooden stocks for ankles and wrists
Wooden stocks for ankles and wrists, on the floor of my Hareem room. I made these stocks about ten years ago. The hasp at the bottom locks with the padlock and the two small holes in each half can be threaded with chains and used to lift the stocks and the victim's feet off the ground, which is especially good for bastinado. They're similar to the much heavier stocks in Eisenhut's "Before punishment" painting
Modern day slaves of the Tuaregs in Niger
These women wear heavy brass anklets to show their status as slaves of the Tuareg tribesmen who have controlled the region for generations. These nomadic tribes used to trade surplus and captured slaves across the Sahara desert to North Africa, including Egypt, and beyond to the rest of the Ottoman Empire. [more...
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
A detail of Bridgman's painting of a domestic harem scene showing a soldier enjoying the company of two of his slaves in his home. His guns and saddle have been hung up on the left, while he takes his pipe and coffee, and plays a game of draughts with one of the girls. [more...
"Nefeeseh" by R.J.Lane
Nefeeseh was a Greek slave girl owned by Edward Lane during his time in Cairo, whom he eventually married.
"An inmate of the Hareem, Cairo" by J.F.Lewis, 1858
Also entitled "Life in the Hareem, Cairo". The model for the seated woman was Lewis's wife, who lived with him for the last years of his decade in Cairo in the 1840s. The setting is based on his own large house in the city.
"Nautch girls emerging from the Taj Mahal" by Edwin Lord Weeks
Edwin Lord Weeks (1849-1903) painting of Indian dancers leaving the raised platform of the Taj Mahal, which has a mosque as well as the mausoleum housing the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, in whose memory the complex was built by Shah Jahan who died and was buried alongside her 20 years later.
"Slave Market" (1836) by Horace Vernet
Vernet's picture shows slaves being sold amongst other merchandise. The bale of cotton tied up with rope may indicate the scene is in Egypt, which was a major cotton producer. The central male figure may be a buyer, but in the racially stratified Egyptian and Ottoman society of the time he is more likely to be working for or even owned by the slave dealer and there to show the slaves to prospective buyers - rather like the figure in Gerome's 1866 "Slave Market
. Both the Vernet and Gerome figures have long canes which were symbols of authority [more...
"Selling slaves" by Otto Pilny
The Swiss artist Otto Pilny traveled to Egypt twice as a young man and spent some of his time with Bedouin in the desert. He painted more than a dozen variations on the theme of slaves being sold in desert encampments. In this painting, two Bedouin are laughing at the pleas from one of five despairing slave girls. The others sit in various states of dejection at their fate, and the two in the foreground also have their wrists bound with leather thongs.