Beda perfected his skills as a genre painter, traveling throughout Europe painting scenes of royalty and nobility in their ornate surroundings. Given his reputation, at first glance this portrait and the next lot would seem out of place in his oeuvre. However, the artist often included Middle Eastern objects in his courtly scenes. Under close examination, an Islamic ceramic or colorful enamelwork can frequently be found hidden among the gilded Rococco parlor tables or resting in a neo-classical marble alcove. By the 1880s, Beda experimented fully with the genre-- most notably in his The Favorite’s Arrival (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, October 12, 1994, lot 67, illustrated) and with these pendant portraits. While it is unknown if Beda traveled to North Africa or the Middle East, he certainly would have been influenced by commercial photographs of the region, which inundated Europe--and artists' studios--from the 1870s onward. Demand for such images easily outweighed supply, and the popularity of the genre influenced painters' production. Despite this, Beda’s work possesses a surprising element of objectivity quite different from scenes of ballrooms and boudoirs. With these portraits, particularly that of the Egyptian with His Rifle, Beda faithfully transcribes the qualities he found most unique in the people of the East.
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