Stepping in and out of frames

This week I have been researching further into the José Camarón piece, ‘An oriental (Turkish/Algerian) woman’. My search started on the Internet and I found out that the piece is currently being shown at the British Museum. I emailed the research team and they kindly sent me more information about the artwork. I really like how the work is classified and described. The artwork is either photographed or scanned using black and white/colour coded bars and ruler at the edges of the frame. My first response from the British Museum did not include any information about the content of the work. However after contacting them again they sent me the following text:


McDonald 2012, pp.226–7.

One of Camarón’s most striking sheets, this brush drawing is based on Carle Van Loo’s Sultana Taking Coffee painted in the early 1750s and now in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersberg. Camarón would certainly have known of the painting through the print by Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet published around 1771. This provides a terminus ante quem for the drawing, making it one of the few that can be dated with any certainty. The similarities between the works are mainly in the dress of the seated woman, the small stool by her side and the curtained backdrop. But Camarón also introduced significant changes to make her more exotic, even alluring: she is turned more to face the viewer, smoke a pipe rather than taking coffee, her eyelids are heavily made up and there are beauty spots on her temple. A black servant stands in the background (her colour indicated by the shading on her face and wash on her arms) and in the garden beyond set upon plinth is a sculpture of a child riding a Sphinx that is very similar to the piece placed in the gardens of Palace of La Granja when they were created in the mid eighteenth century.

Learning more about the work only makes me want to do something with it. I feel a connection with the unknown woman in the drawing. The content seems to be more about the symbolism and style. As a performer I want you to see me and in my retail work I am someone who serves to the customers needs. I like the setting of the piece, a lady holding court and I would like to create a performance using this structure.

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