Sunday, 5 December 2010

By Hookah Or By Crookah

Orientalism is a term used to describe art and literature, generally created by Europeans, which depicts Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, usually in a fantastical and exoticised manner. It was hugely popular in the nineteenth century, and we suspect it was the inspiration for the hookah smoking Caterpillar from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

This Portrait Of Sir Thomas Phillips In Eastern Costume, Reclining With A Hookah is by Richard Dadd and was painted some time between 1830 and 1850.

In the Portrait of Asker-Khan Ambassador of Persia, painted in 1809 by Cesarine nee Mirvault Davin, the subject appears to be smoking the sort of pipe which Carroll portrayed in his original, hand illustrated manuscript of the story.

Click the picture to enlarge this page from Alice's Adventures Underground, or follow the link to see the British Library's 'Turning the Pages' display of Carroll's original manuscript.

The subjects of The Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1834) by Ferdinand Victor Eugen Delacriox are smoking from a hookah in the same style as depicted by Tenniel.

Owing to the enormous popularity of Orientalism, Carroll would have seen a huge number of paintings such as these, featuring hookah pipes and often some remarkably languid people.

Smoking the Hookah - Rudolph Ernst

If, by the way, you would like to own any of the last three of these pictures, you can buy a hand painted reproduction from 1st Art Gallery - an artifact which they describe as being, "the best Christmas gift EVER!"

In 1978 Edward Said published a book entitled 'Orientalism' in which he argued that the way Western artists and academics portrayed the East was unrealistic, stereotypical and served to enforce imperialistic notions and ambitions regarding Asia and North Africa - not directly Alice related, but probably worth considering...

1 comment:

  1. I started smoking hookah one year ago. In searching for hookah profile pictures for hookah forums I subscribe to, I came across this page. I have been returning to it over and over again and have become fascinated with Orientalism. I love the garb, carpets, pillows, and the overall richness depicted in these pictures. Thank you…