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Details & Cataloguing

Boundless: Dubai

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Dubai

Khalil Saleeby
1870 - 1928
LEBANESE
SOLOMÉ
signed and dated Saleeby 1901; signed and dated in Arabic
oil on canvas 
73 by 59.5cm.; 28 3/4 by 23 3/8 in.
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Provenance

Private Estate, Staffordshire
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2016

Catalogue Note

Khalil Saleeby was born in Btalloun, Lebanon in 1870. Captivated by nature and colour from a young age, he continued to nurture this passion through drawings and sketches while receiving a military education in Ottoman Beirut. After completing his studies, Saleeby resolved to develop his artistic sensibilities and moved to Edinburgh in 1890, and then shortly afterwards to Paris. He greatly admired Puvis de Chavannes, and was deeply influenced by his romantic treatment of classical subjects. He was also fascinated by Renoir’s luminous brushwork and his languorous nudes. Saleeby gained considerable notoriety in fin-de-siècle Paris, exhibiting at the Salon des Indépendants and under the aegis of the renowned Impressionist dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. Saleeby spent a number of years in London before finally returning to his native Lebanon in 1900. It was here that he became a pre-eminent portrait artist and a pioneering figure of Lebanese modernism, counting Omar Onsi, Saliba Douaihy and Cesar Gemayel among his disciples. 

Saleeby’s Solomé offers a new perspective on a myth which had truly captured the imagination of the Decadent movement. The story had gained ground in Paris and London for its oriental feeling and elements of licentiousness; from Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s play, to the sensuous description of Gustave Moreau’s paintings in Huysmans 1884 novel A Rebours. At first glance, Solomé almost passes for a Vermeer-esque scene of domesticity, only after we come to know the subject of the painting do we realise that the empty dish is entirely devoid of any culinary purpose, prepared instead to receive the severed head of John the Baptist. Diaphanous gossamer sleeves enclose a subtle reference to the fabled ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, yet there is a tenderness of expression which seems to overhaul the threatening European version of Salome, recasting the daughter of Herodias less as a temptress than as an object of affection.

Boundless: Dubai

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Dubai