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Jean-Etienne Liotard (Geneva 1702-1789)

A lady in Turkish costume with her servant at the hammam

Jean-Etienne Liotard (Geneva 1702-1789)
A lady in Turkish costume with her servant at the hammam
pastel on paper laid down on canvas
28 x 22 in. (70.9 x 56 cm.)
A. Hausammann, Zurich, and by descent to his daughter, Madame Behrens-Hausammann, in 1978.
Paul Josefowitz, London.
M. Röthlisberger and R. Loche, Liotard: Catalogue, Sources et Correspondance, Doornspijk, 2008, I, p. 464, no. 298; II, fig. 434.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Jean-Etienne Liotard, Sammlung des Musée d'Art et d'Histoire Genf, 1978, exhibition catalogue.
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Lot Essay

This composition was a favourite of Liotard's and exists in five autograph versions. Renée Loche and Marcel Röthlisberger have suggested that it may derive from a lost drawing executed by Liotard between 1738 and 1742, shortly before he left Constantinople, and that the surviving versions were executed very soon after his return to Europe, in 1742-3 (R. Loche and M. Röthlisberger, L'opera completa di Liotard, Milan, 1978, p. 93). An oil painting of the composition is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (Röthlisberger and Loche, op. cit., 2008, I, no. 68; II, fig. 87), and three other pastels survive, in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, the Stiftung Oskar Reinhart, Winterthur, and in a private collection (sold in these Rooms, 5 July 1995, lot 148) (Röthlisberger and Loche, op. cit., 2008, I, nos. 67, 69 and 297; II, figs. 86, 88 and 433 respectively). There are subtle differences between each of the pastels, although the present work is closest in composition to the pastel sold at Christie's in 1995 (Röthlisberger and Loche, op. cit., 2008, I, no. 297; II, fig. 433). The present pastel is the only version to be executed on paper rather than on vellum and its tones are softer and more muted than those of the other pastels.

The existence of these five versions suggests that the composition enjoyed great popularity among Liotard's Turcophile patrons. The elegantly-dressed young woman, who is probably Greek or Armenian, is shown with her young servant beside the kurna, or basin, in the hottest part of the bath. Both wear pattens to protect their slippers from the damp floor. Liotard has heightened the exoticism of the scene by showing the young woman's fingertips dyed with henna and a long chibouk or pipe resting in her hand.

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