Pearl cultivation and the pearl trade were integral to the Middle East region’s economy before the discovery of oil and gas, and the advent of industrially produced pearls. Fashioned into necklaces and bracelets, or to embellish jewellery, natural pearls supplied from the region were prized by jewellers all around Europe.
Born in Constantinople, Ralli pursued a thoroughly international career. While Paris became his home early on, throughout his life he travelled frequently to Greece and the Middle East, often spending the winter months in Cairo. From the 1870s he trained alongside other foreign painters in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose legendary draughtsmanship and photographic finish provided a model of perfection Ralli emulated with great success.
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