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Christie's in Paris to offer an important private collection of Orientalist art on 20 June
Alphonse Etienne Dinet (1861-1929), L’Ecole Coranique. Estimate : €600,000 – 800,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2013.

PARIS.- Christie’s will offer an outstanding collection of Orientalist Art at auction, which will take place at Christie’s Paris on 20 June 2013. A selection of masterpieces will be highlighted by the paintings of Etienne Dinet, Felix Philippoteaux and Frederick Arthur Bridgman. The entire sale is expected to realise between €6 million and €9 million.

Lionel Gosset, Collections Department Director: “This collection pays a thrilling tribute to Etienne Dinet, an Orientalist painter whose involvement in celebrating Algerian culture results in powerfully authentic works. His technical virtuosity is evident across his oeuvre, whether in illustrating dignity, sensuality, sorrow, religious ardour or a general love of life. The artist identifies himself to his models, to their life, to their faith, to their legends. To quote his friend Léonce Bénédite: ‘Dinet is essentially the painter and poet of Arab life.’ ”

Throughout the 19th century, the Orient played an inspirational role for travellers and artists around the world. Artists were invited to follow military, scientific or diplomatic missions in Mediterranean countries, and to produce topographical and imaginary representations of the Orient, which celebrated the western vision of Oriental rituals and customs in colonised areas. This began to change at the end of the 19th century, when Orientalist painters from Europe, America, Canada and Australia settled for long periods of time in Northern Africa, transforming the West’s vision of the East, through their realistic depiction of everyday life. Dinet is considered a master among the many painters who documented the Orient, immortalising on canvas the cities, traditional ceremonies, and rural realities of the East.

Alphonse Etienne Dinet (1861-1929).-
Born in Paris in 1861, Dinet began his travels to Algeria in 1884. He stayed in the Saharan oasis of Bou-Saâda, hiring Sliman Ben Ibrahim as his personal guide. In 1904, he moved permanently to Bou-Saâda and lived alongside his friend and collaborator. This new home strengthened his attachment to the land and people of Algeria, leading him to convert to Islam in 1913. Dinet even undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca shortly before his death in 1929. Numerous works by the artist are currently held and displayed in public collections including that of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery of Fine Arts in Algiers, and the Nasreddine-Etienne Dinet Museum in Bou-Saâda.

This wonderful collection presents Dinet’s various depictions of Algeria: in L’Ecole Coranique (estimate: €600,000-800,000) and Arabe récitant la prière de l’Asr, (estimate: €100,000-20,000), the artist illustrates accurate representations of Muslim prayer rituals, which are recognised through the use of specific gestures and expressions.

The Algerian miniaturist Mohammed Racim, whose portrait appears in this sale, wrote about the artist: “Spending time together with Dinet was invaluable to me, I was delighted by his approach to colour and documentation […] his work marks the memory of fading traditional Algerian garments as well as the transformations of everyday Arab life”

Dinet’s paintings offer an account of authentic everyday life including the depiction of romance between Algerian lovers, exemplified by the present work, Les Amoureux (estimate: €600,000-800,000). His portrayal of sensuality is further illustrated by Sous les Lauriers roses, which presents a naked woman under an Oleander bush, about to bathe (estimate: €700,000-1,000,000, illustrated right), and his depiction of youth and joy is exemplified in Au bord de l’Oued, (estimate: €250,000-350,000); Fillettes dansant, (estimate: €400,000-600,000) and Jeux d’enfants (estimate: €250,000-350,000).

Politically active, the artist’s paintings reveal his stance on current affairs of his time. La marche silencieuse (La procession) (estimate: €350,000-450,000), portrays Cherif Mohamed Ben Ali Ben Chabira leading a demonstration by tribesmen against the colonial authorities.

Frederick Arthur Bridgman (1847-1928).-
A Pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Frederick Arthur Bridgeman quickly gained fame in France after exhibiting at the Salon in 1868. His fascination with the Orient was developed further following his first trip to Algeria, ultimately leading him to remain in the country for many years, depicting the country that he loved. In his book, Winters in Algiers, published in 1880, Bridgman described the festival of the Aissaoui, writing that “The members […] claim that the great excitement of dancing and of their religious ecstasy unnerves their entire frame to such an extent that it renders them insensible to the stabs and burns which they inflict upon themselves.”

Bridgeman is renowned for his brilliant naturalistic representations of everyday life, exemplified by Le jeu de hasard, (estimate: €300,000-500,000) and La Conversation, (estimate: €150,000-200,000).

He also represented a socially and culturally important event, which he witnessed in Blida: La cérémonie des Aissaoui à Blida, Algérie (estimate: €600,000-800,000). In this painting, Bridgman skillfully captures the dramatic moment during which a man held a burning wood ember in his mouth, while acutely observing the nuances in expression of the spectators.

Félix Philippoteaux (1815-1884)
Félix Philippoteaux’s paintings were exhibited for the first time at the Salon in 1833. Renowned for his historical battle scenes, he was commissioned by King Louis-Philippe to paint numerous works for the museum of Versailles. In 1840, he was sent by the King to Algeria, to accompany the Duke d’Aumale during his campaign in the Oran region of the country. The many sketches and watercolours that resulted from these travels are currently held at the Museum Condé in Chantilly, France.

In 1866, Philippoteaux painted le Chérif Boubaghla et Lala Fatma n’Soumer menant l’armée révolutionnaire, which illustrates the Algerian resistance against the French army in the 1850s (estimate: €250,000-350,000). In this painting, the rebellion is personified by the leader of the resistance, Lala Fatma N’Soumer. She courageously rides next to Chérif Boubaghla, pushing back the attack of the enemy. Although it was thanks to her triumphant success that general Randon requested a cease-fire, she died in captivity in 1863 after being arrested by Randon in 1857.

The Orientalist sale is further highlighted by a selection of bronze, marble, alabaster and patinated terracotta statues of unknown sitters, who most-likely modelled for the artists in order to satisfy the west’s thirst for exotic culture. The Oriental dream is personified by the terracotta bust of this anonymous man in a turban (estimate: €5,000-7,000).

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