- Arts and Design
Middle Eastern Bellydance Art
Depiction of Bellydance in Art
During the 19th Century, Orientalism became popular in the art world. Writers, artists, and designers portrayed the Middle East and North Africa through their eyes in their art.
At different times in the Twentieth Century and to this day the Middle East fascinates with its decorative and sensual flavors which we'll briefly explore. Something of a magic carpet ride to view art that celebrates the art of the bellydance.
With the resurgence of interest in the dance style, especially in modern and tribal forms, there is also a renewed interest in the art that has been created and in new illustrations for cards, etc. Enjoy the show.
Famous Artists, Orientalist Style
Orientalism was popular in Victorian times
An entire genre of work arose in Victorian times, called Orientalism, which was centered on Middle Eastern subjects. As a part of that culture, dancers were sometimes depicted.... as well as the slave markets and other portions of the Islamic world. One difficulty that Orientalist painters encountered was the segregation from almost all the female population and the scenes of their lives.
Although artists painted in the style known as "Orientalism" in earlier times ( called 'Turquerie,' and other labels), it was in Victorian times that it became quite popular. "Depictions of Islamic "Moors" and "Turks" (imprecisely named Muslim groups of North Africa and West Asia) can be found in Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art."
Leon Bakst painted sketches of costuming for Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.
Costume Design for Salome in "Dance of the Seven Veils," 1908
by Leon Bakst
One of the attractions of this subject is the colorful and exotic costuming. the chance to show off technique in the rich and sumptuous fabrics, the imaginative use of feathers, jewels and other adornments draws the artist and the viewer to the details and engage with the pictures.
Costume Design For the Red Sultan, from Sheherazad
by Leon Bakst
Perhaps you don't wish to have the transparency of materials, but it can't be denied that the authentic feel of the styling and pattern are important inspirations for a costume that will flow with the dancer, and create the exotic atmosphere of Middle eastern dance.
Zobeide, the Favourite Concubine and Leader of the Harem of Shariar
by Leon Bakst
Another illustration of why the art of Bakst is a great reference for belly dance costuming; it was made for the stage and the colors are wonderful.
Jean-Leon Gérôme painted scenes of Middle Eastern subjects, a few depicting the danse du ventre.
Orientalism - a selection of pictures
William Clarke Wontner is one engaging artist of this genre. Other Orientalist painters are Jean-Leon Gerome (examples shown previously in this lens),John Frederick Lewis, Lord Edwin Weeks, Ludwig Deutsch, Rudolph Ernst, and Eugene Fromentin.
For more information and paintings to view see this site on Orientalist art.
About nineteenth century Orientalism:
With fascination for Middle Eastern culture paired with the drive to incorporate greater realism, the movement exploded with popularity for a time. It was a fad, and it might be argued that during the Victorian age it was a way to display subjects that would have been taboo except for it's association with another culture that was viewed as being "corrupt". It was also influenced by historical events such as the French conquest of Algiers, or the building of the Suez Canal.
John William Godward
John William Godward was a student of William H. Wontner, Father of the Orientalist artist, William C. Wontner .
"[Godward's] family being acquainted with the noted architect, designer and renderer William Hoff Wontner (1814-1881), and, John William exhibiting some early drawing skills, they apparently saw little harm at the time in allowing their son to study at least rendering and graining with him during the period 1879-1881 - on a recreational basis in the evenings. This he did together with the architect's son, William Clarke Wontner, who was to become his lifelong friend. Godward was destined to become an acknowledged master of faux marble and his skill in rendering perspective and architectural elements surely had their origin in this period."- J W Godward boiography
The Slave Dealer, 1880
by Robert Dowling
Depiction of historic cultures, their habits and attitudes is another reason this style holds fascination. This is one work that tells a story, and stories have always interested people. A whole history lesson can be contained in a painting, including the attitudes of the observer who records a scene either imagined or noted from life.
What do these paintings tell you? What are the Western attitudes towards the Middle East in the nineteenth century? Towards women or the relationship between men and women? How does the artist view these things?
Jan Frans Portaels
Many Orientalist paintings represent the "Odalisque". What was this?
An Odalisque was:
" ...a concubine in a Turkish harem, particularly the concubines in the household of the Ottoman sultan"
A Harem Beauty Holding a Fan
Gabriel Joseph Marie Augustin Ferrier
Dance of the Almeh
Egyptian dancing-girl, belly-dancer, 1814, perhaps from Arabic almah (fem. adj.), "learned, knowing," from alama "to know."
Also spelled: alma, alme, almeh
Many Interpretations of Belly Dancers - Different Genre from the Fine Art, but Interesting
What do you think of Orientalism?
Uses For Modern Belly Dance Art
If you have a bellydance studio, wall decals are an easy way to decorate with inspirational and topical pictures -plus no holes made in the wall!
Sending cards announcing performances, using custom postage to ensure interest.
Sharing your hobby with others.
Decorating walls in your home, or your studio.