Details & Cataloguing

The Orientalist Sale


Giulio Rosati
1858 - 1917
signed Giulio Rosati upper left
oil on canvas
52.5 by 82cm., 20¾ by 32¼in.
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Sale: Christie's, London, 2 November 1979, lot 212
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Caroline Juler, Les Orientalistes de l'école italienne, Paris, 1987, p. 222, illustrated

Catalogue Note

The wealth of intricate details, luxurious fabrics and the lyrical composition of The Dance showcase Rosati's exceptional skill at combining ethnographic accuracy with spontaneous brushstrokes. The artist's profound passion for the Orient is evident as much through the fascinating array of objects, materials and architecture as the varied characters and personalities he has chosen as his cast.

Despite the conviction with which Rosati rendered his scene, the artist's journeys to the Middle East were purely metaphorical - he never visited the region instead relying on photographic evidence and souvenirs for his inspiration. This 'imagined' Orient liberated the artist from the constructs of a specific place or people, allowing him instead to portray the elements he found most appealing from different cultural traditions. Dr. Emily M. Weeks has suggested that 'the cream-colored burnouses, worn by several of the seated Arab figures, suggest a North African setting, while conversely, carved plasterwork and a scalloped arch seem vaguely Moorish in design.'

Rosati avoided his paintings becoming mere records of a bygone era through his careful attention to each individual sitter, whose personalities are evinced through the subtleties of pose and expression. The spontaneity of the scene is enhanced by the specific roles of each of the characters within it, from the disinterested seated Arab men sipping their black tea to the rapt expression of the small boy to the back left of the dancer, seducing the viewer to become a further participant in the spectacle. Rosati's playful juxtaposing of disparate costumes and detail with richly portrayed characters combine to create an exquisite and joyful homage to the contemporary fascination with the Orient.

The Orientalist Sale