Life in the Hareem, Cairo; An Inmate of the Hareem, Cairo, 1858

Life in the Hareem, John Frederick Lewis, 1858, The Victoria & Albert Museum
Made in 1858, “Life in the Hareem, Cairo” appears, at first glance, to be another so-called “Orientalist” painting with no obvious or relevant story behind it. However, this image relies on the then-popular “Language of Flowers” to tell its story. The posy of flowers held in the lap of the main figure is a love letter, in the language of flowers. This device was a favorite of the artist, John Frederick Lewis, and he often incorporated it into his work. The painting shows a view of the interior of the women's quarters of a Mamluk house in Cairo, as an ornately-dressed woman, reclining on cushions, holds a bouquet of flowers and another woman brings a tray with coffee cups. Lewis completed this watercolor painting in Walton-on-Thames, England though it is based on his many years living in Egypt. Source: Stalking the Bellee

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