Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
more posts...


"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
more pictures...


more books...

© Tanos

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"The Hhareem" by J.F. Lewis (c.1850)

"The Hhareem" by J.F. Lewis (c.1850)

This painting is most commonly entitled "The Hhareem" (with that unusual spelling) but the title "The Harem of a Mameluke Bey, Cairo: The Introduction of an Abyssinian Slave" was used when it was exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy exhibition of 1853.

It was painted during Lewis's ten years of residence in Cairo, before his return to Britain in 1851, and shows the upper floors of his large house in the city. Lewis reworked this scene in 1869 to produce his "An Intercepted Correspondence", with the newly acquired slave replaced by an errant harem girl. Curiously, both Lewis and the harem's owner had aged a couple of decades between the two pictures...

I've written a blog about this pair of paintings.

Lewis's description of that painting when it was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy Exhibition in 1853 was:

"The Hhareem of a Mamluke Bey, Cairo; the introduction of an Abyssinian Slave. J.F. Lewis.

The scene is laid in the upper or women's apartments of a house in Cairo, the lower part of the house being always appropriated to the men. The Master (a Bey and a Turk) is habited in the old Mamluke dress of Egypt, now not often worn. Immediately to his left is seated a Georgian the "Sit el Gebir" or ruling lady of the Hhareem, having obtained that privilege by being the mother of his eldest son, who is leaning against her knee. The lady stooping forward is a Greek and the one reclining at the Bey's feet, a Circassian. The laughing slave - an old inmate. The girl who is being unveiled by the black guardian is also an Abyssinian, but lately arrived from the upper country, and brought into the Hhareem by the wife of the slave owner, who is a fellah, and is seated in the middle distance, habited in the out-door dress of the common people. The boy to the right is a Nubian, who is bringing in a sheetha or narghile. On the divan and near the boy are gazelles, the frequent indoor and out-door pets of all classes. The windows, which are often of an enormous size, are all covered with the finest carved wood-work, at a distance resembling lace, and which does not prevent the inmates from seeing all that is passing, while it effectively precludes the possibility of being seen from without. The walls of all old houses are whitewashed, and only ornamented with borders, often of texts in Arabic from the Qur'an; the elaborately carved dark wood-work of the ceilings contrasts effectively with the whitewash of the walls. The rooms have no furniture save the divans, mats or carpets, no tables or chairs, the dinner being served on a round tray of silver or brass, and placed on a stool; as is represented on the right of the picture. Coffee is being brought in by the attendants in the background."

Last modified 5 May 06, 3:15 AM by Tanos