As one of the leading Egyptian female painters of her time, Effat Naghi is known for her textured and colourful compositions in which she often juxtaposes materials and uses a primitive aesthetic language that recalls the folkloric heritage of 1920s' Egypt. Born into an aristocratic family and the sister of the pioneer Mohammed Naghi, Effat travelled from a very young age abroad and also throughout Egypt where she became familiar and passionate about Pharaonic art.
From 1947 to 1950, Effat Naghi lived in Rome where she studied at Accademia di Belle Arti alongside her brother who had then become the Director of the Egyptian Academy in Rome and they discovered frescoes and mural paintings. Upon her return to Egypt, she dedicated her life and career to her art, aiming to create a national art that showcased the daily lives of peasants, whether at work or celebrating folkloric festivals. Her early works revealed inspiration from various European styles and aesthetics such as Fauvism.
Between 1954 and 1964, Effat Naghi spent time researching about the Egyptian literature and mythology and became passionate about magical symbols that she soon fused into her works with her array of visual inspirations. During her time in Alexandria, she was fascinated by one particular collection of illustrated books written by a French doctor that dealt with various studies of magic, astrology and mathematical studies. Effat enriched her artistic language through the many images of mathematical and astrological shapes, as well as illustrations of old war relics and terracotta pieces from the ancient civilisations, found in those books. She soon started her own personal collection of magical folk artifacts and archeological relics that created a gateway into the depths of ancient Egyptian cultural heritage.
The present work, dated 1959, is a seminal example from Effat Naghi's aesthetic exploration of magic, Zodiak signs and folk art. With prominent symbols, vibrant colours and magical-like forms, her composition stands as one of her most striking works from that period. During those years, Effat Naghi adopted unusual shapes derived from the books she had read, but also from ancient
Arab manuscripts, symbols and mystic art. She was equally influenced by her brother's artistic explorations as well as her husband's - the renowned art professor and artist Saad El-Khadem - writings on contemporary art. The latter had an extensive knowledge and fascination with Egyptian folk art and he undoubtedly had a fruitful impact on his wife's visual vocabulary.
Effat Naghi's reinterpretation of modernity led to her success and her innovation in art is still celebrated today. In 2001, an eponymous museum dedicated to the work of Effat Naghi and her husband Saad El-Khadem was inaugurated in Cairo, reflecting on the influence that she had on generations to come and her importance in the course of Egyptian art history.