Lot 16
  • 16

Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant

120,000 - 150,000 GBP
150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant
  • The Sentinel
  • signed Benj. Constant lower centre
  • oil on canvas


Private collection, New York (acquired circa 1975)


L'Illustration, Paris, vol. 79, 25 February 1882, illustrated
Benjamin-Constant, Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism, exh. cat., Toulouse & Montreal, 2014, p. 220, fig. 275, a print after the painting illustrated (as Janissary)

Catalogue Note

Evoking the glory of Andalusia's Islamic past, Benjamin-Constant recreates a scene of everyday life in what was Islam's westernmost polity. Moorish Spain along with Morocco, just across the straits of Gibraltar, both of which he visited, were the main sources of inspiration for the artist. Of particular interest was the architecture of the Alhambra at Granada - forming the backdrop for numerous compositions, by times of men, by times of women in harem settings, and famously for his Salon submission of 1882, The Day after a Victory at the Alhambra (Museum of Montréal, Canada).

Underlying his Orientalist subjects is a rigorous academic training and skill at rendering the human anatomy, acquired at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the history painter Alexandre Cabanel. Here, the stoic pose of the sentinel is masterfully observed, every muscle in his body taught and alert. His accoutrements, even down to the Mamluk glass bottle on the wall, are observed in minute detail. Benjamin-Constant's studio in Pigalle became a veritable emporium of objects collected on his journeys, ranging from rugs and fabrics to furniture and weapons. 

The painting is offered in an elaborate gilt frame embossed in Arabic with the words 'There is no Victor but God', the motto of the Emirate of Granada and of the Nasrid Dynasty, and which is worked into the decoration of the Alhambra, built by that dynasty.