Alberto Pasini was the most important and extensively travelled of all the Italian Orientalist painters, who enjoyed success both in his own country, and in France, where he spent much of his time after 1851.
Unlike many of his contemporaries who created their Orientalist paintings in Paris studios based on secondary accounts and arranged studio props, Pasini undertook numerous trips to the Middle East. His first excursion in 1855 sent him through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, to the Persian Gulf and Teheran where he finally settled for over a year. His introduction to the Near East came through the diplomat Prosper Bourée who had asked him in 1855 to accompany him on a mission to Persia, in place of the ailing Théodore Chasseriau (in whose studio Pasini had briefly worked). At the conclusion of his duties with Bourée, Pasini spent the following year travelling extensively in Turkey, Persia and Egypt. This expedition proved so inspirational for the Italian artist, that he found revisiting the region impossible to resist.
Pasini's oriental scenes incorporate superb draghtsmanship and a great sensitivity to colour and are, despite their looser brushwork, remarkably similar in overall effect to those of Edwin Lord Weeks. Indeed his juxtaposition of different social types brought together by the common bonds of trade and religion, his natural sense of composition and stong sense of realism, combine in the present work to create an image that is striking similar to his American contemporary's
Lynn Thornton, commenting on the colour and light in Pasini's work, writes: 'Pasini was struck by the delicacy of the light in the East. His treatment of the play between shadow and the sun and his almost photographic representation of architecture and figures are a world apart from the imaginary exoticism of earlier Orientalist paintings.' The artist '...… excelled in group compositions of horses, their shiny rumps towards the spectator, held by simple soldiers who mix with merchants and passers-by' (L. Thornton, The Orientalist Painter-Travellers, 1828-1908, Paris, 1983, p. 124).
Pasini painted a great number of Constantinople market scenes, usually including certain signature motifs: horses, a splash of pink or light blue to pick out the womenfolk, a jumble of goods in the foreground, and a dominating background motif - often a minaret (fig. 1). He was intimately familiar with the city, visiting it often: it was relatively close by, he enjoyed strong political connections there (he had been commissioned in 1867 by Sultan Abdul Mecit to paint equestrian military scenes), but the general populace was still wedded firmly to its Orientalistes de l'Ecole Italienne, Paris, 1987, p. 192). Orientalistes de l'Ecole Italienne, Paris, 1987, p. 192).