Our Art / Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant / The Favorite of the Emir

The Favorite of the Emir by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant
The Favorite of the Emir by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

The Favorite of the Emir, 1879

Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

In this opulent harem scene, two richly dressed women lounge as a turbaned man plays a bağlama, a stringed instrument from Turkey. On the right, the dark-haired woman gazes directly at the viewer while her companion relaxes on a divan. Her pale skin and rich auburn hair suggest that she is not a native.

The artist painted staged scenes that he created in his Paris studio, crowded with props from his trips to Morocco and Granada. During this period, Western ideas about the Muslim East were mostly fantasy. Recent scholarship views this period as cultural colonialism, in which the West would impose its views on and fetishize the East.

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Credit
National Gallery of Art
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