Slave markets in Orientalist Paintings
Orientalism refers to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists. Orientalist painting, depicting more specifically the Middle East, was one of the many specialisms of 19th-century art. In many of these works, they portrayed the Orient as exotic, colorful and sensual, not to say stereotyped. French artists such as Delacroix, Gérôme and Ingres painted many works depicting oriental culture, often including lounging odalisques, featuring scenes in harems, public baths and slave auctions (the last two also available with a Roman or Greek classical decor). Many of the works created by the French Orientalist are understood as romanticized representations and have added exotic ideals to keep the viewers interested. The Orientalist concern to create erotic idealization rather than sociological fact had a profound effect on European perceptions of the region. Female slavery as a subject kept its fascination for artists and public until the early 20th century. Orientalism offered a wonderful excuse for the artists to depict nudity, especially nude females as they were portrayed in an environment that validated such possibilities: bath houses, harems and slave markets. The success was eminent as the spectators in their roles of voyeurs felt quite enthusiastic about the views that were offered to them. The paintings reflected the gender aspects of a society in which women were considered as weaker, being under male control, and as passive objects. The slave markets scenes concentrated nudity, slavery and submissiveness in an exotic fantasy setting.