Winter Exhibition

Harem: Unveiling the Mystery of Orientalist Art

January 24 - April 16, 2017

For centuries the Muslim harem, a favorite subject of Orientalist artists, has evoked images of exotic beauty, sensuality, and wealth. This realm of wives, children, servants, and sometimes slaves was forbidden to nearly all westerners, and first-hand accounts of the customs and lifestyles of the harem were rare. Such restrictions, however, only served to heighten curiosity and interest in harem life in the West. While the occasional traveler and artist did enjoy rare access to the harem and could relay fact-based accounts, sensational and often salacious stories were prevalent in western popular culture of the Gilded Age. Consequently, period depictions of life in the harem and Muslim women vary greatly, from scenes of happy family gatherings to sexy odalisques that exist only for the pleasure of their master. Such works satisfied the tastes of a wide variety of collectors of Orientalist art in America and Europe. Henry Flagler owned at least six harem scenes, which are included in the exhibition.

Organized by the Flagler Museum, Harem: Unveiling the Mystery of Orientalist Art featured paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, rare books, and ephemera on loan from numerous museums, universities, and private collections. The works explored the myths and realities of the harem, as well as the fascination that Gilded Age artists, collectors, and tourists from the West had with this exotic subject.
Gallery Talk:

Tracy Kamerer, Flagler Museum chief curator, gave a Gallery Talk on Harem: Unveiling the Mystery of Orientalist Art, on Tuesday, February 21st. Ms. Kamerer discussed the Gilded Age interest in harems and the artists who depicted them. 
Exhibition Review by John Dorfman - Art & Antiques Magazine:  Orientalist Paintings: Behind the Veil

Image caption: The Sultan’s Favorite, no date. Juan Giménez Martín (Spanish 1858-1901), Flagler System, Inc.