Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D , Case SCX, Shelf 6

The Favourite Odalisque

Watercolour
ca. 1839 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Watercolour paintings of North African, Turkish or Egyptian domestic scenes became very popular in the nineteenth century. The increasing ease of travel meant that many more artists, illustrators, travellers and tourists were able to sketch and paint rapidly in watercolour those places they had previously known only from written accounts.

The harem depicted here is a complete fantasy composed by Allom. He was responding to a demand for pictures of what only could be imagined by those men who were not, and could never be, entitled to enter, unless they became Muslims and set up households of their own. This picture was intended as an illustration in a book of lithographs, Character and Costume in Turkey and Italy, published in 1840. According to the description by Emily Reeve accompanying the plate in Character and Costume, `The odalique [sic] is a fair slave of Circassia or Georgia, the purchase and property of her master alone, and frequently the favourite of his heart - the "light of his harem." The spelling `odalique' is a more accurate version of the Turkish word.

Although he trained as an architect, Allom is better known now as a topographical artist. In 1834 he was a founder member of the Institute of British Architects, [later the RIBA] of which he became a fellow in 1860. He first drew views to finance himself as a student, but was so successful that he then travelled widely and contributed at least 1500 illustrations to numerous books on places in Europe, the Near East and even China, published during the 1830s and 1840s. Few details of his journeys are known, but between 1828 and 1845 he made extensive sketching tours in England, Scotland, France, Belgium, and Turkey, mainly for the publisher H. Fisher & Son.


object details
Category
Object Type
Additional TitleThe Odalique or Favorite of the harem, Constantinople (assigned by artist)
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Watercolour, 'The Favourite Odalisque' by Thomas Allom
Physical Description
Imgae of a harem interior showing a lady in the foreground looking at the viewer, two ladies looking out of a window and another two figures in the background
Dimensions
  • Unmounted height: 29.5cm
  • Unmounted width: 21.2cm
Styles
Gallery Label
Allom was an architect who funded his training by selling book illustrations. Commissioned to paint images for The Character and Costume in Turkey and Italy, published in 1840, he made on-the-spot sketches of the local people. For this image of a slave girl in a harem, however, he was forced to draw on the common stock of fantasy about the East.(07/06/2006)
Credit line
Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A
Object history
According to Rodney Searight: - `Bt Sotheby's (via Abbott & Holder), Jan.1963, £9'.
Historical context
Reproduced in T. Allom. Character and Costume in Turkey and Italy, [1840], pl.10, lithograph by Allom, as The Odalique or Favorite of the harem, Constantinople; also in Walsh, Constantinople, Fisher, [1838 etc.], vol.II, between pp.78 & 79, engraved by J.Jenkins.

According to the description by Emily Reeve accompanying the plate in Character and Costume, `The odalique is a fair slave of Circassia or Georgia, the purchase and property of her master alone, and frequently the favourite of his heart ? the "light of his harem;" '(p.10).
Subject depicted
Summary
Watercolour paintings of North African, Turkish or Egyptian domestic scenes became very popular in the nineteenth century. The increasing ease of travel meant that many more artists, illustrators, travellers and tourists were able to sketch and paint rapidly in watercolour those places they had previously known only from written accounts.



The harem depicted here is a complete fantasy composed by Allom. He was responding to a demand for pictures of what only could be imagined by those men who were not, and could never be, entitled to enter, unless they became Muslims and set up households of their own. This picture was intended as an illustration in a book of lithographs, Character and Costume in Turkey and Italy, published in 1840. According to the description by Emily Reeve accompanying the plate in Character and Costume, `The odalique [sic] is a fair slave of Circassia or Georgia, the purchase and property of her master alone, and frequently the favourite of his heart - the "light of his harem." The spelling `odalique' is a more accurate version of the Turkish word.



Although he trained as an architect, Allom is better known now as a topographical artist. In 1834 he was a founder member of the Institute of British Architects, [later the RIBA] of which he became a fellow in 1860. He first drew views to finance himself as a student, but was so successful that he then travelled widely and contributed at least 1500 illustrations to numerous books on places in Europe, the Near East and even China, published during the 1830s and 1840s. Few details of his journeys are known, but between 1828 and 1845 he made extensive sketching tours in England, Scotland, France, Belgium, and Turkey, mainly for the publisher H. Fisher & Son.
Bibliographic References
  • Briony Llewellyn, `The Orient Observed' 1989 pp.116-117
  • 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
  • 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
Collection
Accession Number
SD.21

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record createdJune 8, 2006
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