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A Moorish Woman with Her Maid
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Félix Jacques Moulin
French, about 1856
Albumen print
7 1/8 x 9 in.
84.XO.431.31

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A Moorish woman reclines on a sofa stacked with pillows; disaffected, she looks away from the camera. Her skirts are pulled up to reveal bare thighs, and her right hand rests suggestively and deliberately between her legs. Her left arm is bare and raised: in her languor and dishevelment, she displays a sexual availability ordinarily reserved for private eyes.

A black woman sits at the end of the sofa, looking bored and distrustful while cradling her mistress's bracelet-topped feet in one hand and resting the other on her calf. The background behind the two women has been cut out, presumably to heighten the visual impact by focusing attention on the sitters.

A convention of Orientalist imagery, the subject of the sexually available female attended by a black maid subscribed to a stereotyped fantasy of non-European women. Jacques Antoine Moulin made this image during a trip to Algeria; nine years later, he included it in an album that he compiled to commemorate Napoleon III's trip there.