The Imaginary Orient
DOI link for The Imaginary Orient
The Imaginary Orient book
The strategies of "realist" mystification go hand in hand with those of Orientalist mystification. The absence of a sense of history, of temporal change, in Jean-leon Gerome's painting is intimately related to another striking absence in the work: that of the telltale presence of Westerners. There are never any Europeans in "picturesque" views of the Orient like these. The fact that Gerome and other Orientalist "realists" used photographic documentation is often brought in to support claims to the objectivity of the works in question. The Orientalizing setting of Eugene Delacroix's painting both signifies an extreme state of psychic intensity and formalizes that state through various conventions of representation. The aloofness of the hero of the piece, its Orientalizing strategies of distancing, it's references to the outre mores of long-dead Near Eastern oligarchs fooled no one, really. The motivations behind the creation of such Orientalist erotica, and the appetite for it, had little to do with pure ethnography.