Street scene by lantern light signed and dated 'A Pasini, 1863' (lower left) oil on canvas 26.67 x 35.56cm (10 1/2 x 14in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Tajan Paris, 6 December 2007, lot 274
Alberto Pasini was born in Parma and studied at the Academy before moving to Paris in 1851. It was there where he studied with Eugéne Ciceri (1813-1890) and was a friend of Thédore Chassériau (1819-1856) who also employed Pasini in his studio. When the ailing Chassériau was unable to participate in the 1855 French official mission to Persia, Pasini was invited to accompany diplomat Proper Bourrée (1811-1886) as his personal artist. The trip lasted a year and a half, during which Pasini visited Turkey, Armenia, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf where he would eventually settle for over two years taking commissions in Tehran from ruler Nasser-ed-Din Shah.
Pasini would return to Egypt in 1860 and Constantinople between 1867 and 1869, followed by trips to Asia Minor and Syria in 1873. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War caused Pasini to return to Italy where he would either paint from memory or elaborate on the wealth of drawings, bozzetti and notes that he had executed on site during his extensive travels. Orientalist compositions formed the bulk of his work through his career from the late 1870s until the mid 1880s, and Pasini was a frequent exhibitor in the Paris Salon.
Pasini's strain of Orientalism is far-removed from the dramatic narratives of his contemporaries. He focused more on the picturesque found in the everyday, a sentiment originating from his in-depth knowledge of his subject matter. The present lot, Street scene by lantern light, demonstrates Pasini's abilities as a colorist and his superb understanding of light and shade. No detail goes unnoticed, from the buttery glow cast by the lantern on the buildings illuminating intricate designs below the window, to the shadow of the horses' legs on the gentle folds in the street. There is a delicate harmony in the subdued palate of blues and browns which expertly invoke the calm of twilight as it descends on a quiet avenue. The overall affect is somber yet dignified, illustrating the mysterious enchantment of a scene taken from life rather than the exaggeration of the imagination.