Sunday, January 9, 2011

Harem Scene by Achille Devéria

We have already looked at a couple of lesbian illustrations by French artist Achille Deveria.  This one, however, allows us to introduce a new theme, that of the harem.

If there was anything liable to excite the gentleman collector in the nineteenth century it would be the concept of the harem (from the Arab word haram meaning forbidden place).  A fascination with North Africa, the Near and Middle East was prevalent amongst travellers and artists.  The Turkish harem in Istanbul, the Seraglio, was of particular interest. 

Not only did the harem represent a single male having total sexual power over numerous women but it also had the added frisson of what all these women did in their idle spare time, when not servicing their master.  The answer, of course, in the  fervid imaginations of nineteenth century artists was largely sexual.  Depiction of these sorts of activities were not acceptable in publicly exhibited work at the time so artists confined themselves to portraying the inhabitants of the harem endlessly having massages or lolling around pools and baths, which gave a wonderful opportunity to depict numerous naked female bodies, of course.

In this picture the young lady is quite clearly getting intimate with the other's pussy and Devéria shows her pink labia clearly.  What makes the scene, however, is, firstly, the man observing from outside the window.  He has a very serious expression as if the performance is of serious academic interest. Secondly, and Devéria's masterstroke, is having the girl in the turban looking straight at the viewer as if, possibly, he is peeking in from another window.  A voyeuristic masterpiece!

More harem girls another time.

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