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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Ludwig Deutsch: The Scholars

Ludwig Deutsch, The Scholars
oil on panel, 1901
(Washington Times, Orientalist art’s reversal of fortune)
no copyright infringement intended

Three young ‘ulama contemplate illuminated manuscripts of various kinds. They each wear the typical imamah, or turban, of their respected station: this consisted of a taqiyah, or close-fitting cap, red cloth tarboosh (distinguished by its black tassel), and long piece of white muslin, wound round the head. (The color of this cloth indicates that these men are not Sayyids, or descendants of the Prophet; such ethnographic precision was typical of Deutsch.) The slender figure on the left wears a belt, or hizam, around his striped silk qumbaz, and the same red morocco leather slippers as his colleagues. This detail suggests that the men have not gathered in a mosque or other religious space to perform their studies — shoes would have been prohibited here — but rather in an elite private residence of some kind. The dulab, or built-in wooden bookcase, emphasizes this point: though similar cupboards can be found in Mamluk-era mosques in Egypt (cf. Umm Sultan Sha’aban on Cairo’s Darb al-Ahmar), these tend not to have the higher level open arcade, used for displaying ceramics and other collectible items. This ornate architectural accessory was a favorite compositional motif of Deutsch’s, as was the Afshar carpet and the mother-of-pearl inlaid trunk.

(Ludwig Deutsch)



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