J. Norrington, Harem Scene, Constantinople - 19th-century graphite drawing

An 19th-century graphite drawing, J. Norrington Harem Scene, Constantinople.

An exotic scene in graphite, set in a Turkish harem - a courtesan plays on a stringed instrument to a man who is smoking a hookah. The artist has applied a thin wash to the drawing, possibly a solution of glue or gum arabic to intensify the graphite.

Signed lower left. Inscribed lower left 'interior of a harem, Constantinople.'
In good condition for its age. Some of the background staining on the image extends into the margins.
15.7cm x 12.8cm.

This work comes from a mid-Victorian album of great quality, which is typical of the mid-nineteenth century fashion of picture-collecting.

The album itself is a prestige object, made of tooled and gilded leather. But we don’t know who owned it: unusually for an album of this period there is no inscription. What we can say of the owner or owners, though, is that they were collecting around the middle of the nineteenth century, and that they had unusually eclectic tastes, even by the standards of the day.

There are landscapes and seascapes, fanciful scenes showing a Turkish harem, and high-quality studies of animals. And then there are the two genres in which the collection is particularly strong: flower studies, and Chinese pith paintings, many of the latter being in unusually good condition.

Though they are clearly by many different hands, the majority of the works are unsigned. What they demonstrate is how a Victorian collector would operate: picking up anything that caught their eye, often mounting it on embossed paper or card, and keeping it safe in a finely decorated book expressly for the purpose.

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Product code: JG-996

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