Mahmoud Saïd (Egyptian, 1897-1964)
Tahia Halim (Egyptian, 1919-2003)

Untitled (The Lute Player)

Tahia Halim (Egyptian, 1919-2003)
Untitled (The Lute Player)
signed and dated ‘T.Halim 1975’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
44 x 29 in. (111 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1975
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner’s mother in Cairo in the 1970s, and thence by descent.

Lot Essay

Proudly attached to her homeland, Tahia Halim painted authentic scenes depicting the rural daily life and folk customs in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. Through her paintings, she celebrated the traditional heritage of the Nubian people as seen in the present example painted in 1975. Filling up the canvas from top to bottom, the figure wears a white ‘galabiyya’, a traditional wide cut Sudanese dress from the Nile Valley. The galabiyya brightens his earthy-coloured skin, but also contrasts with the dark background, consequently heightening the lines of his silhouette. The profile of his face and the frontal view of his body is reminiscent of the bas-reliefs decorating the walls of Ancient Egypt’s temples or tombs on which majestic portraits were reserved to the gods, important families and Pharaohs. In that way, Halim sacralised the image of an unknown peasant and gave him a place in history.

Despite coming from a privileged family, Halim glorified the Nubian people through her painting yet as a woman artist living in British colonised Egypt, she also sought her own national identity and her own place within a male and foreign dominated society.

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