Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Scribe

The Scribe
Artist: Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1930)

Signed and dated Paris 1896
Medium: Oil on panel/ huile sur panneau
Size: 20 7/8 by 15 in (53 by 38 cm)

“Although fro earliest times Islamic society stressed the importance of literacy, the public scribe, well versed in subtleties of style and officialese, and with an elegant script, was much in demand by all classes. This was particularly true in cities, as here in Cairo, especially as there was the complication of two languages – Arabic, the language of the mass of the people , and Turkish, the language of State.

In this picture, a scribe waits for customers in the street, perhaps at the doorway of his own house. His upward faze may indicate boredom but also recalls the way writers have traditionally been represented in European art, both in portraiture and religious subjects such as St. John on Patmos, with their eyes fixed on heaven as if awaiting divine inspiration.” (Malcom Warner, in The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse, catalogue of the exhibition at the Royal Academy, London, and the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1984, p.132)

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