Women Of Algiers 3
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  • I wish to thank my parents and 91/2 yr. old son. Your support while I worked on my academic career has been wonderful! Thanks especially to my son who stayed with his grandparents so often while I worked on my thesis. It is a wonderful time to be with family because it is Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday- good foods, family moments and the influence of Jewish traditions.
  • Pablo Picasso, an influence on the modern art world, is reported to possibly have a Jewish grandmother. In John Richardson&#x2019;s biography of the artist, his grandfather &#x201C;. . . married a plump young woman from the province of M&#xE1;laga, In&#xE9;s L&#xF3;pez Robles, rumored to be a Maranna (of [Spanish] Jewish descent).&#x201D;1 If this rumor is true about Pablo Picasso&#x2019;s mother&#x2019;s mother, the artist was Jewish according to Jewish law. I do not know how deeply influential Picasso&#x2019;s Jewish grandmother was on his life. However, whether he was conscious of it, some of Picasso&#x2019;s art was influenced by Jewish women. <br /> In January 2009, I visited the Picasso/Delacroix exhibition at the Louvre. It coincided with the major exhibition &#x201C;Picasso and his Masters&#x201D; held at the Grand Palais, in Paris. The Louvre presented around 20 painted and graphic variations influenced by Eug&#xE8;ne Delacroix&#x2019;s Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1834), executed by Picasso in 1954-55.
  • Considering my passion for art that reflects Jewish life, when I saw Delacroix&#x2019;s painting I wondered: What was the identity of the women in this painting? Could these women have been Jewish? <br /> After my visit to the Louvre, I embarked on researching Jewish feminine identity portrayed in French Romantic painter, Eug&#xE8;ne Delacroix&#x2019;s Women of Algiers. The ultimate mission of my work is to decipher the Jewish visual and cultural content inherent in this specific painting, in the context of nineteenth-century French Orientalist art. <br /> This presentation focuses on the possible Jewish feminine identity of the artist&#x2019;s models. I assert that it is conceivable that the Algerian women who modeled for the sketch and the Parisian studio models Delacroix used to complete the painting, had a Jewish identity. I intend to demonstrate that Jewish women were at the center of Delacroix&#x2019;s Orientalist fantasy. <br /> <br /> Delacroix in Morocco <br /> The studies that Delacroix did in North Africa potentially took Jewish women as models. Delacroix had access to Jewish models in North Africa as easily as he did in Paris. <br /> Delacroix had many opportunities to make sketches and paintings of Jewish women on a journey to North Africa. From January to June 1832, Delacroix accompanied Count Charles de Mornay on a diplomatic mission dispatched by the French King to the Sultan of Morocco.2 This six month mission influenced Delacroix&#x2019;s work for the rest of his life.3
  • For the duration of his journey he was a guest in a Jewish household. During that time, he recorded hundreds of notes and sketches in his journals. The most accessible models were Jewish women, whom the artist encountered in the home of his Jewish host and his host&#x2019;s relatives, as well as other belle juives, or beautiful Jewesses, in the Jewish quarter, called the mellah, and within the markets and streets.4 He wrote, &#x201C;The Jewish women are admirable. I fear that it will be difficult to do anything other than to paint them: they are pearls of Eden.&#x201D;5 A sketch of a Jewish woman, Moroccan Notebook: Studies of Jewish Women, is one example of the many sketches of Jewish women that were source material for later paintings.
  • In Morocco, Delacroix did not have an opportunity to gain access to women in a Muslim harem. It was forbidden for a Christian male to enter a Muslim home with women present. Sketching a female Muslim was nearly impossible.6 One attempt to sketch an unaccompanied Muslim woman bathing in the river, resulted in being chased by armed men.7 Harem women were often victims who had been kidnapped by foreign invaders and sold as harem slaves. They may have belonged to diverse ethnic, national and religious cultures, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim. There is evidence that Delacroix sketched at least two sisters for the painting Women of Algiers.8
  • Near the end of Delacroix&#x2019;s North African journey, he stayed in Algiers for three days. While he was there, he may have seized the opportunity to sketch women in a harem. In Art in an Age of Counterrevolution, Albert Boime described an indirect account of Delacroix&#x2019;s encounter with one harem in Algiers.9 <br /> Most scholars accept the reported encounter and believe that the Algerian owner of the harem was a former Christian. In his catalogue of Delacroix&#x2019;s work, Lee Johnson writes that Mornay called the port authority a &#x201C;ren&#xE9;gat,&#x201D; and assumes the &#x201C;Muslim host is an apostate, a former Christian.&#x201D;10 However, Boime stated that the Muslim port employee that let Delacroix into his home was a &#x201C;former &#x2018;corsair,&#x2019; or renegade.&#x201D;11 He writes the French translation of &#x201C;corsair is &#x2018;shark, Jew&#x2019; and renegade, may mean convert.&#x201D;12
  • On Delacroix&#x2019;s original sketches for the painting Woman of Algiers, titled Algerian Woman (Arab Woman Seated on Cushions) and Algerian Women (Two Seated Arab Women), the recorded names were Mouni and Zohra Bensoltane, written by Delacroix as Mouney ben Sultane.13 Boime wrote that Bensoltane was a common Sephardic Jewish North African name.14 The household Delacroix visited in Algiers, may have been owned by Jews who converted to Islam. In North Africa, Jews were subject to anti-Semitic discrimination, political domination and social degradation; conversion was often the response. This shows it is entirely possible that the Algerian women who posed for Delacroix&#x2019;s sketch had a Jewish identity. <br /> Most women portrayed in harem paintings were painted semi-nude, However, women&#x2019;s bodies in the East were actually covered in multiple layers of clothing. Many households were governed by rigorous expectations and rules of etiquette and discipline.15 When a sultan desired a woman, she was brought discreetly to his chambers. <br /> Orientalist paintings of idle women, lying on cushions and dreaming of their lovers, actually resembled the nineteenth-century leisured society of the Western European world.16 Women in elite Western society at that time, were expected to have a lifestyle of listless inactivity. Orientalist paintings were largely projections of the Parisian studio artist&#x2019;s male fantasy.
  • The Parisian &#x201C;Belle Juive&#x201D; <br /> Jewish women worked as models in Paris. Potentially Delacroix used Jewish models. Barthelemy Jobert reports that when Delacroix had returned to Paris, he painted &#x201C;Muslim women.&#x201D;17 Jobert argues that if Women of Algiers was done from the sketches alone done on site, then the painting did not exactly transcribe realistically what Delacroix saw.18 In addition to the studies done on site in Algiers, there was another set of sketches done in a Parisian studio with garments Delacroix acquired to costume his models.19 Jobert informs us that Delacroix completed the final painting his studio.20 The Muslim women that Jobert referred to, may in fact have been Jewish women, who were known to frequently work as artist&#x2019;s models.21
  • In Bodies of Art: French Literary Realism and the Artist&#x2019;s Model, Marie Lathers writes that &#x201C;the Jewish model appeared in 1830 and dominated the modeling trade through the next decade.&#x201D;22 Lathers states that a &#x201C;division occurred at that time concerning the figure of the Jew to the categories of art and gender: whereas the male Jew&#x2019;s place in the art world was established as that as a merchand (merchant), the female Jew was . . . mod&#xE8;le (model).&#x201D;23 It was stated &#x201C;[all] Jews are not dealers in paintings, but all dealers of paintings were Jewish.&#x201D;24 Therefore, Lathers proposed that it could be that &#x201C;all Jewish women were not models, all models were Jewish women.&#x201D;25 <br /> Lathers wrote that the art dealer had a negative stereotype as a shylockian &#x201C;money-grabber Jew.&#x201D;26 Negative stereotypes against the Jews reflected common Eurocentric attitudes. However, in the early period of the decade that Jews dominated the profession, the female Jewish model was perceived positively as the stereotype of the belle juive.27 <br /> In The Invention of the Model: Artists and Models in Paris 1830-1870, by Susan Waller, names are recorded of some artist&#x2019;s Jewish models, including two Jewesses that Delacroix may have conceivably used, at an earlier date, as his Parisian models for Women of Algiers, <br /> &#x201C;. . . Eug&#xE8;ne Delacroix&#x2019;s journal of 1859 lists Ad&#xE8;le Rosenfeld and Mme. Hirsch, who had &#x2018;a superb dark head&#x2019;. . . . The most famous Jewish model . . . was Marix who posed for the figure of Fame [Glory], in Paul Delaroche&#x2019;s h&#xE9;micycle at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.&#x201D;28
  • Josephine Marix, born in 1822 as Josephine Bloch, had likely grown up in the Marais, a Jewish district in Paris. During her career, which began at age 15, she posed for the artists Fernand Boissard, whom she lived with from 1845-47, Paul Delaroche, Ary Sheffer, Geoffroy Dechaume, Charles Steuben, and Louis Boulanger.29 The book, Manette Solomon, by Jules and Edmond Goncourt (1867), was based on Marix. <br /> According to Lathers, &#x201C;Jewish young women were the ideal artist&#x2019;s model.&#x201D;30 By the end of the century, the Jewess was considered to be the demise of all men, as femme fatale. Lathers states that until mid-century Jews were &#x201C;viewed as morally flawed-- and thus redeemable through conversion.&#x201D;31 However, by the end of the century, they were seen as &#x201C;unredeemable-- they were racially and essentially flawed.&#x201D; <br /> The Jewish artist&#x2019;s model, or belle juive (beautiful jewess), was ultimately perceived to be the destroyer of the artist. This transition is apparent in this example that Marix is mentioned in Oriental stereotypes. In an account from the 1840&#x2019;s, author Alexandre Privat d&#x2019;Anglemont describes the Marix sisters, <br /> &#x201C;Imagine . . . the most beautiful Jewish type . . . pure nose, lips, arms, feet, hands of Biblical delicacy that would drive to despair all objective poets and colorists. In a word, if you wish to see the beautiful, the truly beautiful, the Oriental type in its purity, use the Marixes, and the most delicious creations of Judean painters will come alive before your eyes.&#x201D;32 <br /> <br /> Later in the period she is mentioned as the femme fatale, Theophile Gautier mentions Marix in the preface of Charles Baudelaire&#x2019;s Flower of Evil (1857), who becomes the archetypical fleur du mal, <br /> &#x201C;On the sofa . . . Maryx, wearing a white robe bizarrely spangled with red spots resembling drops of blood . . . without showing the least surprise on her mask of the purest Oriental type . . . .&#x201D;33
  • The Jewess as Biblical heroine was a common Orientalist theme. Leon Benouville&#x2019;s Esther (1844), is similar to Women of Algiers, the Jewess lounges on her cushion, the black African servant attends the idealized harem beauty.34 Oriental props were used as stereotypical devices to provide an alluring environment for fulfilling the fantasy of the French imagination. One critic from the Salon of 1844 wrote, &#x201C;she resembled a courtesan more than the chaste heroine of Jewish captivity.&#x201D;35 <br /> In Sensuality, Depravity and Ritual Murder: The Damascus Blood Libel and Jews in France, Julie Kalman wrote, &#x201C;Just as the Oriental Jewesses were imprisoned in their beauty, the effects . . . rooted its subjects in carnality.&#x201D;36 The &#x201C;sensual and the carnal Jew&#x201D; have been fused into France&#x2019;s consciousness.37 Kalman adds, &#x201C;Oriental figures were a projection of French desires and anxieties, and those figures . . . influenced the way in which the French saw the Jews living within their own borders.&#x201D;38
  • I have asserted that it is plausible that the Algerian women who modeled for the sketch and the Parisian studio models Delacroix used to complete the painting, had a Jewish identity. Delacroix was surrounded by Jewish models while he stayed in North Africa. Further, young Jewish women dominated the artist&#x2019;s modeling profession in the 1830s. Jewish women were accessible models in Paris and it is possible that Delacroix employed Jewish women as artist&#x2019;s models.
  • This presentation has shown it is entirely conceivable that the women in Delacroix&#x2019;s Women of Algiers were Jewish. Tonight we have seen that Jewish women were at the center of Delacroix&#x2019;s Orientalist fantasy.

Women Of Algiers 3 Women Of Algiers 3 Presentation Transcript

  • Identity of the “Jewess” in Delacroix’s Orientalist Painting: Women of Algiers in their Apartment By Paige Dansinger 2009
  • Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Les femmes d'Alger (Women of Algiers), 1955. David Nahmad.
  • Eugène Delacroix. Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, 1834. 70 7/8 X 90 1/8 in. (1.80 X 2.29 m.) Musée du Louvre (RF3824).
  • Eugène Delacroix. Moroccan Notebook: Studies of Jewish Women, 1832. Watercolor and pencil. Musée Condé, Chantilly (fol. 26v-27r).
  • Eugène Delacroix. Arab Woman and her Servant on the Banks of a River, 1832. Watercolor and pencil drawing, 16 X 18.3 cm. Harvard University Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Bequest of Granville L. Winthrop.
  • Eugène Delacroix. Algerian Woman (Arab Woman Seated on Cushions), 1832. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 10.7 X 13.8 cm. Musée du Louvre, Department des Arts Graphiques, Paris.
  • Eugène Delacroix. Algerian Women (Two Seated Arab Women), 1832. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 10.7 X 13.8 cm. Musée du Louvre, Department des Arts Graphiques, Paris.
  • Paul Delaroche. Detail of the Hémicycle at the École des Beaux-Arts, 1841/1855.
  • Leon Benouville. Esther, 1844. 48 7/8 X 63 3/4 in. (124 X 162 cm.) Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau.
  • Eugène Delacroix. Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, 1834. 70 7/8 X 90 1/8 in. (1.80 X 2.29 m.) Musée du Louvre (RF3824).