The Pashas Escorts

Artist: Alberto Pasini

Title: The Pashas Escorts

Medium: Oil on Canvas

One of 11 pictures exhibited by Alberto Pasini in 1878 in the Italian pavilion of the Paris Exposition Universelle, this dazzling composition shows the artist at the height of his artistic powers, and distils the attributes for which he was most famed. The exhibition won Pasini the French Légion d'Honneur, the Gold medal of the Salon, and the Gold Medal for the Italian section. Vittoria Cardoso, author of the catalogue raisonné on the artist, wrote of the group of pictures exhibited by Pasini in Paris: "these paintings, selected by the artist, can fully be considered the most representative of his oeuvre: a small summation of his Orientalism."

The painting depicts an armed escort waiting outside a palace door for the appearance of an unseen Ottoman prince. It displays Pasini's almost photographic mastery of architectural space, and his understanding of light, colour and shade. The device of placing figures within a closed composition defined only by an architectural background is also typical, serving to highlight the grandeur of the buildings, and creating a single plane against which to set both the small splashes of colour which enliven the composition with a profusion of picturesque detail, and the small variegations of surface tone which here reflect the patina of wear along the walls.

The building in the background is almost certainly a capriccio, although the individual details would have been drawn from real prototypes, rendered in the countless sketches that Pasini made on his numerous extended visits to Constantinople.

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