chapter  3
14 Pages

Oriental Art

ByBen Burt

As Europeans became acquainted with Asia, the “Orient” provided civilizations against which they could define their own culture. As imagined by British and French in particular in their dealings with Ottoman empire, word “Oriental” conjured up images of despotism, exotic luxury, and cultural conservatism, as well as alien religions. Ancient Greece remained a basic standard of artistic value, and art history was strongly colored by moral judgments that compared all other traditions more or less unfavorably with realization of Classical ideals. But characterization of Oriental art traditions also reflected the history of European relationships with particular regions of Asia. European interest in Islamic Orient developed from the war between French and British for control of Mediterranean at turn of nineteenth century, when Napoleon’s scholars initiated study of Egyptian antiquity. Although Europeans constructed their theories of Oriental art with little consideration of Asian artistic values, they sometimes had more in common with the Asians than they realized.