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    Sale 7741

    Orientalist Art

    9 July 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 17

    Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)

    Desert prayer

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Edwin Lord Weeks (American, 1849-1903)
    Desert prayer
    signed, inscribed and dated 'E.L. Weeks/mogador 1881' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    24 x 36 in. (61.1 x 91.5 cm.)
    Painted in 1881.


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    After an eventful and difficult trip to Morocco in 1878 Weeks returned to Morocco less than a year later. It had turned out to be impossible for him to travel from Tangiers to Fez over land as he had intended the year before, this time he wanted to succeed in his wish to travel to the enigmatic towns of the interior. His journey commenced by following the coast to Mogador, better known as Essaouira.

    Essaouira has a long and eventful history and is considered to be one of the best situated cities on the Moroccan coast. It is known that during the 5th century BC, the Carthaginians had already established a trading relationship and during the 16th century, in 1506, the King of Portugal had a fortress built, named 'Castelo Real de Mogador'. The local population resisted the invasion and only four years later the fortress fell. Throughout the 16th century various European powers including Spain, England, the Netherlands and France tried in vain to conquer it. The actual city of Essaouira was only built in the 18th century. Mohammed III, wishing to reorient his kingdom towards the Atlantic for increased exchanges and trade with Europe, chose Mogador as his key location. He even hired a French engineer, Théodore Cornut, to build a fortress in contemporary style. The fortress was originally called 'Souira', (The small fortress) but eventually change into 'Es-Saouira' (The beautifully designed).

    At Mogador Weeks obtained the governor's permission to enter the interior of the country and he travelled, escorted by an armed guard, as far as Marrakech. There he obtained permission from the local potentate to draw in the streets. He was fascinated by the contrasts between the flourishing commercialism of the bazaars and the ancient monuments in their abandoned state.

    The present lot is a wonderful pictorial memory of this voyage that
    Weeks undertook in the vast desert of Northern Africa. It is not known if Weeks was still in Mogador when the present lot was painted in 1881 or if the inscription is merely an indication that he used the sketches he created during his time in Mogador. Weeks depicts a group of Arab men at prayer in the desert. Because of the discomfort and dangers of desert travel as the travellers broke their journey to pray it was customary to travel in a camel caravan. Weeks choose to depict a very spiritual moment of the day. The fall of the light suggests that it is morning prayer as the shadows are long and in the direction of the East.

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