Allure of the East: Orientalism in New York, 1850–1930

April 11, 2008
August 17, 2008

Prelude to Woven Splendor from Timbuktu to Tibet: Exotic Rugs and Textiles from New York Collectors.

To provide a historical context for the exhibition on oriental rugs of the Hajji Baba club, the Historical Society has organizing a multi-faceted installation examining the fashion for Orientalism in New York during the late 19th century. Through paintings, prints, photographs and books as well as silver, lighting, and metalwork, the display explores New Yorkers' fascination with the "Orient"-defined for this purpose as the Middle East, as well as North Africa and Moorish Spain. The installation includes paintings of Orientalist artists that hung in New York salons, including Jean-Léon Gérôme, Edwin L. Weeks, and Ernst Koerner, as well as depictions of New Yorkers sporting traditional Middle Eastern dress, including the dramatic portrait of Orientalist William C. Prime in Arab costume and the group portrait of the exotically-attired Gerard Stuyvesant family. By the 1860s, New Yorkers were also incorporating facets of Eastern design, as well as a plethora of imported exotic objects, in domestic interiors influenced by Islamic art and also by impressions of an alluring and sensuous Orient gained from popular translations of works such as The Arabian Nights. Photographs of New York interiors, from George Kemp's Fifth Avenue mansion and Louis C. Tiffany's personal Studio to the Moorish Ottendorfer pavilion on Riverside Drive, reveal the opulent luxury of these interiors. In addition, the installation includes decorative arts inspired by the East, including Islamic-style silver made by Tiffany & Co. and Moorish-style chandeliers and lighting from Tiffany Studios.

Creative: Tronvig Group