polychrome decorated bronze on a Levanto rouge marble pedestal
Orientalism was a Western fascination with the exoticism of other continents which became popular during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Romantic portrayals of African countries in contemporary literature and operas, such as L'Africaine and Aïda fueled this exoticism. In America, the Turkish Bazaar in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition further heightened the fascination with "Turkish" or "Moorish" subjects which lasted well into the 1880s. Orientalist themes allowed artists to break away from the formal monochromatic palette of Neoclassicism. Their use of a variety of gilt and silvered bronze, marble, onyx, and colored stones was in stark contrast to the classically themed sculptures in bronze and marble fashionable in the preceding decades.
Émile Coriolan Hippolyte Guillemin was one of the most prolific and successful French Orientalist sculptors, specializing in figurative works and was inspired by the Middle and Far East. He went to great lengths to ensure the ethnographic accuracy of the costumes and physiognomies of his busts. His representations of Indian falconers, Turkish, Kurdish, and Algerian maidens, as well as Japanese courtesans, firmly established his reputation as one of the foremost Orientalist sculptors from the mid-1870s. Guillemin first exhibited Zeibeck at the 1879 Salon.
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