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Wilkie was one of the first artists to travel to Jerusalem after the establishment of the British Consulate there in 1839. Already a celebrated painter, he travelled to the Near East to make studies for a future project of biblical subjects. This was never realised as he died on the journey home.This watercolour was painted in Jerusalem. Fair-skinned women dressed in Near Eastern costume often in a harem setting, are a recurring image in ‘Orientalist’ paintings. Such works underline western perceptions of eastern culture as sensuous and exotic. Many fashionable European ladies posed for similar portraits.

May 2007