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Watercolour - Scene in a Cairo Bazaar
  • Scene in a Cairo Bazaar
    Cattermole, Charles, born 1832 - died 1900
  • Enlarge image

Scene in a Cairo Bazaar

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Date:

    1856 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cattermole, Charles, born 1832 - died 1900 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water- and bodycolour, heightened with white

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A

  • Museum number:

    SD.581

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case DR, shelf 37

This mysterious watercolour was long mistakenly believed to be by John Frederick Lewis, as it shares many of the characteristics of his work. It is probable that Charles Cattermole for a time consciously imitated Lewis’s technique, style and subject matter. There are two extremely similar Orientalist watercolours by Cattermole in private collections, yet he seems to have returned to more conventional subjects and techniques after 1862.

However, it remains uncertain how Cattermole acquired his understanding of Egyptian life shown in this watercolour. A storyteller or poetry-reciter is performing, with musical accompaniment from a rabab (a kind of viol), to a crowd of passers-by. He holds up his forefinger and thumb either in a gesture to reinforce a point in his story or to display a small object a coin or jewel- to his audience. They listen with rapt attention, men and women, young and old, fair and dark, rich and poor, representative of the medley of different types of people found in Cairo's busy streets. Among them are a wealthy merchant with his two wives and servant, whose garments create an opportunity for the artist to display his knowledge of local costume and his skill in rendering the texture and sheen of rich materials. The street is the Sharia Bab al-Wazir, identifiable from the dome of the Mosque of Amir Khayrbak in the background.

Date

1856 (painted)

Artist/maker

Cattermole, Charles, born 1832 - died 1900 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Water- and bodycolour, heightened with white

Marks and inscriptions

شارع باب الوزير

Dimensions

Height: 55.5 cm, Width: 59.6 cm

Object history note

According to Rodney Searight: - `Bt Sotheby's, March 18th 1964, £50 '.

Historical context note

The street is the Sharia Bab al-Wazir, identifiable from the dome of the Mosque of Amir Khayrbak in the background. This composition is not a version of Lewis's 1856 exhibit at the RA (336), Street Scene in Cairo near the Bab el Luk (sold Sotheby's, 18.10.78), as suggested in the Laing exhibition catalogue (75). Instead, the subject appears to be a storyteller or poetry reciter performing with musical accompaniment to a crowd of passers-by, an event commonly seen in Cairo's busy streets. He holds up his hand either in a gesture to reinforce a point in the story or to display a small object, possibly a coin or jewel, to his audience. The musical instrument is a rabab or a kind of viol.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, Scene in a Cairo Bazaar. 1856. Formerly attributed to John Frederick Lewis 1804-1876, now attributed to Charles Cattermole (1832-1900)

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Searight, Rodney. The Middle East : watercolours and drawings by British and foreign artists and travellers, 1750-1900, from the collection of Rodney Searight, Esq. London, 1971
Searight, Rodney and Scarce, Jennifer M., A Middle Eastern journey : artists on their travels from the collection of Rodney Searight, Talbot Rice Art Centre, 1980
no.106
Green, Richard. J.F. Lewis, R.A. (1805-1876) : Painter of the Desert and Harem. Guildford : Guildford Borough Council Leisure & Recreation Section, 1977
no.75
John Frederick Lewis R.A. : 1805-1876, Newcastle upon Tyne : The Gallery, 1971

Labels and date

Attributed to John Frederick Lewis 1804/5-1876
Scene in a Cairo Bazaar
1856

A storyteller or poetry reciter is performing with musical accompainment to a crowd of passers-by. He holds up his hand, either in a gesture to reinforce a point in the story or to display a small object, possibly a coin or jewel, to his audience.

Watercolour and bodycolour, heightened with white

Purchased 1985
Museum no. SD.581 []

Production Note

Formerly attributed to John Frederick Lewis 1804-1876

Subjects depicted

Storytelling

Categories

Paintings; Historic Cairo

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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