Delacroix was introduced to Léopold-Victor Poirel, head engineer of the port who succeeded in getting him authorization to enter a harem. The Turkish owner, Sidi Abdallah, previously Reis du dey of Algeria was also a former corsair. His house was situated near the port, on the corner of the small rue Amour (rue de Chartres) and the Khear-Pacha mosque, which was later destroyed.
This unhoped for glimpse of a world forbidden to men inspired four watercolours by Delacroix of the sisters Mouni, Sohra and Bahya Ben, and their neighbor, Zohra Taboudji. These compositions would later serve as preparatory sketches for the famous painting Femmes d'Alger dans leur intérieur (Musée du Louvre, Paris).
Another watercolour showing Sidi Abdallah in an identical position, is reproduced in the exhibition catalogue Orientalism, Delacroix to Klee, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997, p.60; n°5, and is kept in an Australian private collection.
We would like to thank the Galerie Brame & Lorenceau for confirming the authenticity of this work. It will be included in the digital catalogue on Delacroix's Oeuvre in preparation.
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