Frederick Arthur Bridgman
- Frederick Arthur Bridgman
- Le Jour du Prophete à Blidah, en Algerie
- signed and dated F.A. Bridgman 1900 lower right
- oil on canvas
- 66 by 54.5cm., 26 by 21½in.
Sale: Gros & Delettrez, Paris, 13 December 2010, lot 27
Nice, Société des Beaux-Arts (a label on the reverse)
The history of Mawlid is complex, as the legitimacy of the celebration is questioned. Since the exact birth date of the Prophet is unknown, many Muslims believe that it is an arbitrary date chosen to imitate the Christian celebration of Christmas and as such should not be a religious festival. Sunni scholars tend to agree on its legitimacy, whereas Wahhabi scholars do not. The first references to celebrations on this day refer to ones taking place in eighth-century Mecca; however, they become more common from the late twelfth-century onwards. When the ceremonies were first performed, they were often connected not only with Mohammed, but also with his daughter Fatima, his grandson Husseyn and the local caliph (hence some references to the day of the prophets).
Early celebrations included torch-lit processions, animal sacrifice, public feasting and sermons. More recently Mawlid is celebrated with public decoration of streets and houses, processions, the distribution of food and charity, singing, dancing and recitations of texts and poetry dedicated to the life of the prophet. People may fast during daylight hours and then eat large communal meals after sundown.
Mawlid also provided a framework for female involvement. Women often participated in the celebrations outside the mosque rituals. The present work shows a congregation of women dressed in their ritual drapery. It was painted a year after Bridgman's larger work of the same subject, depicting Algerian women burning candles in the cemetry of Oued El-Kebir outside Blidah (fig. 1).