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The Moorish Chief

1878
Eduard Charlemont, Austrian, 1848 - 1906
Eduard Charlemont used studio props and a paid model to evoke a world of luxury and power and an architectural setting that resembles the Islamic palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. (The canvas was once called The Alhambra Guard.) This work demonstrates the romantic lens through which white Europeans regarded the traditions, peoples, and places of Muslim Spain and the French colonies in West Africa. Although Charlemont painted few African subjects and was best known for portraits and depictions of European historical subjects, his singular ability to convey a model’s personality and to suggest different textures and surfaces is evident here. The name of the model who posed for this commanding figure standing in a palace doorway may never be known. The artist had recently come to Paris from Vienna and was little known when he exhibited this work to great acclaim at the 1878 Paris Salon. ...

Object Details
With Charles Sedelmeyer (1837–1925), Paris [1]. Collection of Auguste Etienne Louis Tabourier (1822–1898), Paris, 1878 [2]. With Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1882. With Guardi Gallery, London, 1883 [3]. With Haseltine Galleries, Philadelphia; sold to John G. Johnson (1841–1917), Philadelphia, June 15, 1887 [4]; bequest to the City of Philadelphia, 1917.1. A red wax seal of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, as well as a paper label with the number 7363, appears on the back of the panel. Charles Sedelmeyer was born in Vienna and, after his move to Paris in 1866, represented Austro-Hungarian artists such as Charlemont. See Christian Huemer, “Charles Sedelmeyer’s Theatricality: Art and Speculation in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris,” in Artwork through the Market: The Past and the Present, ed. Ján Bakoš (Bratislava, Slovakia: Slowakische Academy of Sciences, 2004), pp. 109–24.2. Lent by Tabourier to the 1878 Salon in Paris (no. 466).3. Johnson’s 1892 catalogue lists the provenance as “Guardi Gallery, 1883”; Catalogue of a Collection of Paintings Belonging to John G. Johnson (Philadelphia: printed by Allen, Lane and Scott, 1892), p. 13, no. 35, archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/N656J64c1892_001. The Guardi Gallery, 11 Haymarket, London, was founded by Martin Henry Colnaghi in 1876 and specialized in old masters and contemporary Continental artists. In 1887 it was renamed the Marlborough Gallery.4. Receipt from Halestine Galleries, June 15, 1887, Correspondence, John G. Johnson Papers, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives, archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/JGJ_B004_F011_012.
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