In the 19th century, the gates of the Orient opened for Western painters drawn by the mysteries of distant lands. Dazzled by the light of the Deep South, revealing the reliefs of arid landscapes and the colours of spectacularly patterned architecture, the Orientalists Delacroix, Gérôme, Ingres and other major names in European expression invited us to embark on a veritable pictorial expedition to the exotic and bewitching new world of their dream Orient.
Delacroix’s travel diaries open the narrative, plunging visitors into the heart of an itinerary teeming with the play of light and shadow, the scent of spices, the rhythm of oriental instruments and unprecedented moments captured on the spot.
Then other great names – Constant, Frère, Vernet, Gérôme, Guillaumet, Belly, Richter and Dinet, among others – will set the scene for an inspiring elsewhere that they hope will be both marvellous and luxurious. They invite visitors to meander through the narrow streets of Oriental cities and souks, to step into sun-dappled interiors, to join in the dance of the Oriental soul, and to stroll through the patios of sumptuous palaces.
Visitors accompany the artists on their peregrinations and experience the gruelling journey across a merciless desert, stopping off at the oases. They will also encounter wild animals, the hunting of which was an eye-catching subject for these Orientalist painters. Finally, moucharabiehs offer a glimpse into the mysterious world of harems. This sensual, fantastical world remained inaccessible to Orientalist painters, who therefore imagined representations of it.
The fumes of the hammam reveal bathers with unreal curves, and finally the curtain rises on Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque, a masterpiece of dreamlike, idealised Orientalism. The dream comes to an end, and visitors wake up in the heart of 19th-century Parisian salons, having experienced the Orientalists’ dream of the Orient like an evanescent mirage.
Production: Culturespaces Digital ® – Création artistique : Virginie Martin – Mise en scène et animation : Cutback – Supervision musicale et mixage : Start-Rec