I was very attracted by the realism of this watercolor even if, as Thompson writes in the picture caption, the human figures were drawn to a smaller scale to add "sense of drama" to the composition.
So the discovery of this one was a little disappointing.
You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to notice that the display of wares on the left side of both paintings is almost identical. My guess is that the picture dated 1887 was done first; Robertson then decides to use the same display of goods in the second one which I find more alluring.
Robertson’s third picture, The Bazaar Khan El Khaleelee Cairo is not dated but is "signed situated on an old label". That means we can assume it was done in Cairo.
Actually, they are all watercolors, so I think it is possible they all were made in Cairo. Probably the artist drew first the backgrounds on the spot, then added the details in a quieter place.
Look at Caucasian rug in the last picture and at the seller holding it in position:
even if the watercolor is a fast technique, that level of detail requires time and tranquillity. A Bazaar full of curious and noisy Egyptians is not exactly the ideal place to work, but a private courtyard could be suitable enough.
But that also means the presence of those Caucasian rug - and the Uzbek Suzani - is plausible…
What do you think?
Since you mention the suzani, I call your attention to the fringe on its bottom end. This is almost surely an embellishment by the artist. The suzani also appears to "drape" more like a fine pile carpet than a linen ground embroidery.
The fringe could have been added by the owner of the Suzani or one of the embroiderers. An analogy would be the fringes added to embroidered Chirpys. BTW, Filiberto, this is great essay; thanks.
Tell me if I'm wrong, but I would guess that the purplish-blue (ugly) color shown in detail 4 represents a late painting in his career. This color looks like the awful colors in late 19th-early 20th century Turkish rugs. I doubt that this color was present in rugs before 1875, and since he lived to 1891, and assuming that the representation is accurate, the painting was done near the end of his career. How's that for a Sherlock Holmes approach?
Concerning the fringe: it is possible that a fringe was sewn onto the suzani by the owner, I suppose, just as fringes were routinely added to chyrpy. I've seen lots of chyrpy with fringe on them, and it's said that the fringe was sometimes replaced because it wore before the body of the garment did. But I've never seen or heard of a fringe on a suzani. That doesn't mean it's impossible that some existed, but they were certainly uncommon if they existed at all. On that basis, I'd take the position that the probability that this is what the painting shows is very small. It's surely much smaller than the probability that the painter added it because he didn't really know what a suzani is.
Based on probability, I'd say that the p-value of your thinking is about 0.5
Let's look at the possible explanations for the fringe on the suzani in the painting:
1. Maybe it was a suzani with a fringe sewn on. I've never seen or heard of a suzani with an applied fringe. For that reason, I give this a very low probability of being the correct explanation. I assume that you've never seen or heard of such a suzani either, but that doesn't stop you from thinking that this is probably what it is.
2. Maybe it was a rug with a suzani-like design, not really a suzani at all. I've never seen such a rug or heard of one. For that reason, I give this a very low probability of being the correct explanation. Do you think it's likely to be correct? If not, why? Bear in mind, please, that you've already rejected "I've never seen or heard of such a thing" as a strong argument.
3. Maybe the painter saw the scene with a rug in that spot, but opted to use a suzani design because he's seen a suzani from a little distance and really liked it, and didn't realize that it wasn't a rug and had no fringe. Painters do such things, I'm told, so it seems plausible to me. I give this a moderate probability of being the correct explanation. Where do you put it relative to the first two explanations? Why?
4. Maybe the painter saw the suzani, which had no fringe, but he added the fringe because he thought suzani normally have one but that it was worn away, so he put it back on in the painting. Painters do such things, I'm told, and for that reason I give this a fairly high probability of being correct, much higher than explanations 1 or 2, and somewhat higher than 3.
Your stated position is that explanation number 1 is more likely than number 4. Do you have a rationale for that position more compelling than the fact that that it is plausible? If you believe it to be more plausible than any of the other three, what leads you to that conclusion?
Not only are the wares similar, but the rugs are the same, too. The Karachoph Kazak at the left of both paintings is the same, and it appears that the green-ground rug being held up in the second painting is the same as the one to the right of the suzani in the first painting.
This leads one to think that the rugs were from the artist's studio and not painted from life.
One disturbing painting is the Harem Pool painting. What is the likelihood of a Euopean painter being invited into a harem?
My opinion about the fringe on the Suzani:
From what I see in these three paintings, Robertson drew objects with remarkable accuracy. Perhaps he took some liberties with sizes and composition, but the rendering of the single elements seems very faithful - see in particular the Chajli (oops! I said it) in the last picture I showed above.
That makes me think that the suzani HAD a fringe.
Unless…Unless Robertson felt that the suzani was visually incomplete without a fringe, so he added it.
I give a 80% to the first hypothesis and 50% to the second.
Marvin, about the date of the painting.
It is a watercolor, so IF it’s true what I found i.e. Robertson worked exclusively with oil until 1880, and exclusively with watercolors after 1884, we can situate the dating between 1880 and 1891, with more probability between 1884 and 1891. (Elementary Dr. Watson!)
Not only some rugs are the same, but also other objects of the display, like the inlaid table, the bottle, the brass tray and vessels. Even the sword, whose hilt is visible in detail 4 could be probably the same sword leaned on the step on the right in the 1887 painting.
It all belonged to Robertson? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
It depends on the possibility of Robertson having painted those watercolors in Cairo, like the label on the third painting seems to suggest.
If this is the case I tend to believe that the objects, rugs included, were in Cairo.
Let’s not forget that Egypt - if I’m not mistaken - didn’t have a production of piled rugs anymore and it depended upon foreign supply - just like the West.
Anyhow, we need more information on Robertson’s travels in the M.E. Perhaps someone could help?
One disturbing painting is the Harem Pool painting. What is the likelihood of a European painter being invited into a harem?
You wrote, From what I see in these three paintings, Robertson drew objects with remarkable accuracy. Perhaps he took some liberties with sizes and composition, but the rendering of the single elements seems very faithful - see in particular the Chajli (oops! I said it) in the last picture I showed above. That makes me think that the suzani HAD a fringe.
I guess it hinges on whether we think the fringe is something within the category of things Robertson usually drew very accurately (details), or something within the category of things with which he took liberties (size and composition).
We're not likely to find a way to know which it is.
I have only done a few aquarelles ever. But one thing I am pretty sure about from my experience: these pictures contain by far too much detail to have been worked out in detail on location. Most likely the artist has done sketches and worked them out later back in his atelier with rugs draped out (models?) that would have been available to him in London or elsewhere (Caucasians?), but not the ones from the Egyptian basar.
Some artists had their ateliers in Cairo, like the French Charles-Theodore Frčre (1814-1888). Some lived there for long time, like the British John Frederick Lewis (1805-1876).
Unfortunately I don’t know how long Robertson stayed in Cairo, but I think that it is possible that he made his paintings there - even assembling elements from different sketches.
He used watercolors, not oil. A well-lighted room and/or a private courtyard could have been suitable as a studio for the "assembling" and the use of models - like the one holding the Chajli in the third painting presented here.
The fact that the third work is "signed and situated in Cairo" and the reasons discussed in the "Karachopf Design" thread concerning the two others paintings, make me confident enough… But, of course, in lack of further evidence this is only an hypothesis.