Théodore Jacques Ralli (Greek, 1852-1909) Young girl in the hamam 55.5 x 38 cm.

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 10
Théodore Jacques Ralli
(Greek, 1852-1909)
Young girl in the hamam 55.5 x 38 cm.

Sold for £ 87,562 (US$ 113,251) inc. premium
Théodore Jacques Ralli (Greek, 1852-1909)
Young girl in the hamam
signed and dated 'Ralli 87' (upper right)
oil on canvas
55.5 x 38 cm.

Footnotes

  • Painted in 1887.

    Provenance
    Acquired in Alexandria, Egypt in early 20th century and hence in the same family.

    Immersed in an atmosphere of romantic mysticism and suggestive eroticism, Ralli's luscious beauty, perhaps a harem girl or a Cairene almeh1, confronts the viewer, inviting them to escape from the strictly organised and disciplined western way of life to a dreamworld of oriental pleasure and exotic fantasy.

    For harem women, renowned for their luminous complexions and satin skin, the hamam2 was an all-consuming passion and a most luxurious pastime, offering them a chance not only to wash and purify but also to go out into the world. Ralli, who has painted some of the most beautiful and seductive pictures of harem beauties, (compare Saltan's favourite, sold by Bonhams, Greek Sale, December 12, 2006) here seems to follow on the footsteps of his great teacher Jean-Léon Gérôme, who had made four images of Egyptian almehs 15 years earlier, in 1872-73.

    The artist's primary emphasis is on capturing the seductiveness of the young woman's loosely tied sarong and transparent blouse, splendidly enhanced by the gently provocative pose. Her face and arms, both raised above her head, are semi-concealed by veils of white chiffon, leading the eye to rest on her firm chest and luminous areas of exposed skin. The artist reinforces the message of languor and sensuousness by placing the female figure close to a stone stairway, which add further intrigue by luring the imagination into the dark reaches of the upper floor.3

    The Spartan setting (a stark contrast to the lavishness of Gérôme's bath interiors) is enlivened by the inclusion of certain ethnographic details, such as the stool on the right, used for seating in the bathhouse, the characteristic openings on the stairway wall, which admitted light but retained steam (note the finely drawn sunrays beaming on the stone steps), and the ubiquitous pair of nalin4 decorated with geometric designs. Through such small but poignant details, powerful harmony of colour values, and an inviting tactile quality, Ralli achieved unity of effect and fused this almost visionary scene into a refined and seductive work of discreet elegance.

    The dean of Greek orientalist painters, T. Ralli had a solid career in France, recognized as a prominent exponent of official academic painting. Especially after 1882 he participated in many exhibitions and in 1901 was awarded the Medal of the Legion of Honour by the French Government. In one of the most comprehensive essays written on the painter, Professor C. Christou notes that "Ralli was one of those artists who consistently managed to sell their work even before they were completely dry, a fact that explains why the National Gallery in Athens has such a limited collection of his work.5

    1 Female entertainers specialising in dance.
    2 The hamam (Turkish bath) is an adaptation of the Byzantine bath, which itself derived from Roman thermae.
    3 See Orientalism, Delacroix to Klee, exhibition catalogue, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997, pp. 100-102; A.L. Croutier, Harem, the World Behind the Veil, Abbeville Press editions, New York 1989, pp. 81-91.
    4 Traditional high-heeled wooden footwear worn by bathers during the Ottoman period and the early Turkish Republic to protect them from slipping on the wet surfaces and elevating them above the soapy and dirty water running on the floor. They were customarily worn by females, males and children at Turkish baths.
    5 C. Christou, Greek Painting 1832-1922 [in Greek], National Bank of Greece edition, Athens 1993, p. 78.
Contacts
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.