Eugène Delacroix: Women of Algiers in their Apartment

Eugène Delacroix: Women of Algiers in their Apartment

5/9/2021, 12:27:38 PM
Eugène Delacroix: Women of Algiers in their Apartment, 1834, Oil on canvas, 180 × 229 cm., Musée du Louvre, Paris In 1832 Eugène Delacroix toured Morocco with King Louis-Philippe's representative of the Sultan and was refreshed by a culture so vastly different to the French. After Morocco his drawing and paint handling became freer and his use of colour even more sumptuous. The first fruits of his Moroccan impressions are collected in 'Women of Algiers in Their Apartment' The work depicts four women enclosed in a lavishly decorated room. Three of the women are sumptuously adorned with loose, billowing garments and gold jewellery. One woman has a pink flower in her hair. The fourth woman is a black slave who exits the scene, looking over her left shoulder towards the seated women. Delacroix perfectly rendered the features of the women's clothing, adornments, and the interior decor in great detail. This attention to details follows through from his 1832 Algerian sketches into the 1834 oil painting of the same scene. The painting has been applauded by scholars for it's attempted ethnographic depiction, both in the relatively clothed forms of the females and the title of the painting itself, as it is devoid of the objectifying terms odalisque or harem. On the other hand, even though there is a desire for realism to evoke the decorative mood, and it is achieved in parts, the work fails to extend the desire for realism to the women themselves, and the social customs of the harem. With the exposed décolletage, loose unbounded clothing and languid poses, Delacroix’s Algerian females are still situated in the European oriental dream with the addition of stereotypical Orientalist motifs, such as the narghile pipe, charcoal burner, and the odalisques pose. Together they create a fictional image that parallels the European fantasy of the harem more than reality.

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