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Magical masterpiece leads Bonhams Orientalist art sale in London
The Arrival of Prince Humbert, the Rajah, at the Palace of Amber by Edwin Lord Weeks. Estimate: £500,000-700,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- The 19th century American painter Edwin Lord Weeks was an inveterate traveller. Although based in Paris for most of his career, he made long painting trips abroad visiting Egypt, Persia, Morocco, among other countries. An extensive working tour of India in 1882-3 produced one of his masterpieces, The Arrival of Prince Humbert, the Rajah, at the Palace of Amber which leads Bonhams Orientalist Art sale in London on Monday 26 October. It is estimated at £500,000-700,000.

Bonhams Director of 19th Century Paintings, Charles O’Brien said, “This is a truly remarkable painting. In his book From the Black Sea through Persia and India, Weeks wrote of the gateway of the Amber Palace having ‘the rich tone of a cashmere shawl’ an observation he brilliantly captured in The Arrival of Prince Humbert, the Rajah, at the Palace of Amber. Everything about this work – the detail, the colour and the atmosphere that Weeks conjures – has a magical quality and represents a pinnacle in the artist’s career.”

Weeks (1849 -1903) came from a wealthy Boston family and was able to pursue both his wanderlust, and his talent for painting from an early age. He moved to Paris in 1872 studying in the atelier of Léon Bonnat and working in the circle of Jean-Léon Gérôme. The French capital remained his home for the rest of his life and he enjoyed considerable professional and personal success there; he exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon and was made a member of the Légion d’honneur in 1896.

The Arrival of Prince Humbert, the Rajah, at the Palace of Amber depicts the spectacular Amber Palace also known as the Amber or Amer Fort in Amer near Jaipur. Built in the late 16th/early 17th centuries, it was the seat of the Raja of Amer until a new court was established in Jaipur in 1827. As one of the Hill Forts of Rajasthan, the Amber Palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other highlights include:

• A Dealer in Artefacts by the Austrian artist Ludwig Deutsch (1855-1935).. Deutsch’s interest in Orientalist art was sparked by his close friendship with fellow painter Rudolf Ernst, the leader of the second generation of Orientalist painters who favoured depictions of daily life over political and historical subjects. During the 1890s, Deutsch visited Egypt several times, collecting objects such as fabrics, costumes, tiles and weaponry that he would later incorporate into his paintings. He also took numerous photographs to ensure the architectural accuracy of his work, most of which was produced in his Paris studio rather than in situ in north Africa. Estimate £200,000-300,000.

• The Street of the Ghoreeyah, Cairo by the British Orientalist Charles Robertson (1844-1891). This work is a newly discovered addition to Robertson’s oeuvre and has never been offered at auction before. Little is known about Robertson’s early life, but in 1862 he made a speculative painting trip to Algeria that was to change his life. The following year he exhibited at the Royal Academy and encouraged by this success made a series of visits over subsequent years to Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. In 1889, Robertson travelled to Jerusalem, Damascus and Cairo where The Street of the Ghoreeyah, Cairo was painted. Estimate: £120,000-180,000.

Writing in the latest edition of Bonhams Magazine about the renewed interest in Orientalist Art especially in south-east Asia, art critic Martin Gayford said: “The West imported many things from the East, but one commodity that was lacking outside Europe was naturalistic art. That remained the case for many centuries. One consequence is that, if people from those cultures want to look at depictions of their own past such as interiors, street scenes of landscapes, the only place to find them is in Western Orientalist painting.”

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