Sunday, August 3, 2008


I just read an article about a show taking place at the Tate in London entitled "the Lure of the East" and subtitled "British Orientalist Painting".

In this article the author shows the fascaination as well as the desdain that the West held towards the East (mostly Turkey and Iran). This is done through the portrayal of selected artworks produced during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

It is amazing to read about the way in which this apparent fascination of the East was expressed, and which was through obsessing over its fashion. Several Orientalists (Europeans) actually adorned the garments of the East in a desperate attempt to fit in.

The article then moves on to describe one Robert Shirley. "Between 1608-1613 and 1617-1624, Shirley wheedled his way into the Iranian court and was dispatched on European missions on behalf of Shah Abbas of Iran.....The Briton, who took himself very seriously, was portrayed several times wearing Iranian court attire, or so he thought,"

The article goes on to say that "The result (the depiction of Shirley) irresistibly calls to mind the famous scene in Molière's satirical comedy "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme," where a man from the newly rich bourgeoisie aspiring to aristocratic status has himself decked out in a pseudo-Turkish outfit before being hailed with a bogus title, "Le grand Mamamouchi."

Mamamouchis and bogus titles....sounds familiar!

No comments: