Pasha and Bayadère

Object Details

Title:

Pasha and Bayadère

Artist/Maker(s):

Roger Fenton (English, 1819 - 1869)

Culture:

English

Place(s):

London, England (Place created)

Date:

1858

Medium:

Albumen silver print

Dimensions:

45 x 36.2 cm (17 11/16 x 14 1/4 in.)

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The Bayadère (dancing girl) undulates sensually for her audience of one. The Pasha (Turkish military or civil official) watches her, entranced by her suggestive dance. The musician plays intently, accompanying the performer but dutifully casting his eyes away. Is this a glimpse into a forbidden world of Near Eastern carnal delights? Did Roger Fenton luck upon this private scene during his travels in the Crimea? No, in actuality, this photograph was staged in Fenton's studio in London with hired models, and the woman's arms are held aloft by strings to keep them perfectly still. The subject is Orientalist, a term that refers to romanticized depictions by European artists of scenes of Muslim culture in the Ottoman Empire and its territories in the Near East and North Africa.

As in this instance, Orientalist scenes were more often fiction than fact. Western cultural biases and misunderstandings were laid down on paper or canvas and frequently became the only source of information in the Western world on the subjects depicted. Few nineteenth-century non-Eastern viewers could dispute their authenticity, since only a small number of them had actually visited such places. Reviews from 1858 confirm that viewers believed in the veracity of the images; when photographs from the Orientalist suite, including this one, were first exhibited, one reviewer enthused: "[These] are favourable examples, being admirable illustrations of Eastern scenes of actual life."

Exhibitions
Roger Fenton (South Bank Centre) (February 4 to April 17, 1988)
  • The Hayward Gallery, (London), February 4 to April 17, 1988, (Cat.)
Roger Fenton (January 24 to March 26, 1989)
  • Yale Center for British Art, (New Haven), January 24 to March 26, 1989, (Cat.)
Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851 - 1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989, (Cat.)
Roger Fenton: The Orientalist Suite (July 16, 1996 to October 6, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), July 16 to October 6, 1996, (Cat.)
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998, (Cat.)
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004, (Cat.)
All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852 - 1860 (October 17, 2004 to January 2, 2006)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), October 17, 2004 to January 2, 2005, (Cat. 62)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 1 to April 24, 2005, (Cat. 62)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 21, 2005, (Cat. 62)
  • Tate Britain, (London), September 21, 2005 to January 2, 2006, (Cat. 62)
In Focus: Making a Scene (June 30 to October 18, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 30 to October 18, 2009, (Cat.)
The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme / Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904): L'histoire en spectacle (June 15, 2010 to June 12, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 15 to September 12, 2010, (Cat.)