Orientalist art & Photography

Robert Irwin at TLS:

OttomanCountrymen passed bristling over with arms, each with a huge bellyful of pistols and daggers in his girdle; fierce, but not the least dangerous. Wild swarthy Arabs, who had come in with the caravans, walked solemnly about, very different in demeanour from the sleek inhabitants of the town. Greeks and Jews squatted and smoked, their shops tended by sallow faced boys, with large eyes, who smiled and welcomed you in; negroes bustled about in gaudy colours; and women with black nosebags and shuffling yellow slippers, chattered and bargained at the doors of the little shops.

So Thackeray described the bazaar in Smyrna in Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo. This evocation of crowds, costumes and racial types was a cliché in Orientalist travel writing; for example, Mark Twain, in Innocents Abroad, wrote of the thronging inhabitants of Istanbul as follows: “No two men were dressed alike. It was a wild masquerade of all imaginable costumes – every struggling throng in every street was a dissolving view of stunning contrasts”. And there is much more in the same vein.

More here.