Benjamin-Constant: Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism by Nathalie Bondil (ed) - review by Dominic Green

Dominic Green

Postcards from the Harem

Benjamin-Constant: Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism

By

Yale University Press 399pp £40 order from our bookshop
 

When Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant died in 1902, Pope Leo XIII and Edward VII sent telegrams to his widow. He was renowned for the colossal Orientalist canvases that first made his reputation and for the society portraits through which he cashed in on it. Today he is almost forgotten. This scholarly and fascinating collection of essays is the first English volume on Benjamin-Constant. The exhibition that it accompanies, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until May, is the first outside France since his death.

Distantly related to the political philosopher of the same name who wrote Adolphe, Benjamin-Constant was a creature of the Paris Salon in the days when it was controlled by the government of the Second Empire. He conformed energetically to the Academic style, modifying his method only when his career required

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