The Silk Road: Orientalist Paintings and Furniture from a Belgravia Residence

The Silk Road: Orientalist Paintings and Furniture from a Belgravia Residence

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 31. The Prayer.

Frederick Arthur Bridgman

The Prayer

Auction Closed

November 9, 04:41 PM GMT


40,000 - 60,000 GBP

Lot Details


Frederick Arthur Bridgman


1847 - 1928

The Prayer

signed and dated F A Bridgman 1875 upper left

oil on canvas

Unframed: 46.3cm by 34cm., 18¼ by 13½in.

Framed: 65.5 by 53.4cm., 25¾ by 21in.

Mathaf Gallery, London 
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Painted in 1875, this painting, which pre-dates by two years the larger version today in the collection of the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, was almost certainly inspired by Bridgman's first and only trip to Cairo in the winter of 1873-74, and is likely set in the Sultan Hassan Mosque. 

Private moments such as worship are rare in Bridgman’s oeuvre, as he is better known for his vignettes of daily life in Algeria and North Africa. The Prayer is also distinguished by its rigorous, academic style of execution; painted when the artist was just twenty-eight, the influence of his teacher Jean-Léon Gerome is still strongly apparent, in contrast to the more impressionistic technique he would adopt from the 1880s onwards.

Bridgman imbues the scene, of a worshipper standing to recite the Takbir or invocation to God, with a psychological intensity not only through the effects of chiaroscuro to bring the praying figure into strong relief against the dark background; unlike Gérôme, whose numerous prayer scenes depicted the faithful from behind or in profile, with the mosque's mihrab in view, Bridgman shows the worshipper face on, allowing the viewer to share in his moment of surrender.

Born in Alabama, Bridgman arrived in Paris from America in 1866, and entered Gérôme's studio at the École des Beaux-Arts the following year. Under Gérôme’s tutelage, he developed his pictorial idiom and his interest in Orientalism, prompting him to travel to Algiers in 1872, and on to Cairo. The trip provided a lasting impression – henceforth his entire artistic output was given over to Orientalist subjects, as he took to summering in Algiers in search of fresh impressions and subjects.