The Sword of the Faithful signed with monogram (lower right) oil on canvas 120 x 223cm (47 1/4 x 87 13/16in).
PROVENANCE: Purchased from the Royal Academy by Mr. Heriot, a banker, in 1884. Private collection, UK.
EXHIBITED: London, Royal Academy, 1884, no.568
The present lot is an excellent example of the rich exotic Orientalist scenes that Goodall produced at the height of his career. Painted in the same year that he completed New light in the harem (RA 1884, no.235, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and The flight into Egypt (RA 1884, no.619, Sarjent Gallery, New Zealand, which Goodall described as 'my finest work'1), The Sword of the Faithful was inspired by Goodall's travels to Egypt in 1858 and 1870. Travelling and camping with the Bedouin tribesmen, Goodall established himself as a renowned Egyptophile, his many Academy exhibits contributing to the fervour for Orientalism in the second half of the 19th century. The artist's own reminiscences of his time in Egypt capture the rich textures and bustling streets that inspired his work:
'The street in which we lived was the principal thoroughfare of the Copt quarter, and was in a constant bustle. Camels with their huge packages almost blocked up the narrow way as they passed backwards and forwards from the other parts of the city. Blue women sauntered past from the wells, with their jars balanced in the most graceful fashion on their heads, their beautifully-formed brown arms braceleted with yellow ore, long white metal earrings tinkling down to the shoulders, and strings of beads round the neck, the blue dress- always blue opened nearly to the waist...The shops were small dens about five feet square, in which the merchant sat half-buried amidst the goods for sale...These people were dressed most picturesquely, turbaned with different colour shawls, striped dresses, silks and rags all mixed up together...' 2
Goodall continues, describing the scene that inspired the present lot:
'The Suez Bazaar formed the background of my picture, The Sword of the Faithful:.... a Bedouin sheikh on a camel in the desert at Suez. He is testing on his thumb the quality of a blade he is about to purchase from a dealer in arms. The studies for this picture were made at Suez, where I saw the incident. The accessories show a man cutting tobacco, and in the next shop a dealer having his accounts made up by a professional accountant.3
1Frederick Goodall, The reminiscences of Frederick Goodall, RA, London, 1902, p.386 2 Ibid, p.71 3 Ibid, p.80 & 387