Orientalism and the gates of the Orient


For European intellectuals and artists in the 19th century, travelling to the Orient was a real rite of passage. Until the 1850s, it was also a perilous adventure. But the inventions of the industrial era – the railway, steam engines, the telegraph – made it easier to reach faraway lands.

Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837–1900), a Dutch aristocrat, was one of the first "tourists" to go in search of exoticism. From his travels in Iran, the Near East and Egypt, he brought back an exceptional collection which he presented to the City of Cannes in 1877.

In the arts, the taste for ancient and Arab-Persian cultures gave rise to a movement with a romantic inspiration: Orientalism. The works on display at the Musée de la Castre provide different visions of this dreamed or experienced Orient.


The gates of the Orient

In the 19th century, the French Riviera – like Andalusia and the banks of the Bosphorus – attracted travellers with its temperate exoticism: picturesque landscapes, a mild Mediterranean climate, golden light, lush vegetation, etc.

In Cannes, in 1872, as the city was growing, Tinco Lycklama set up his "Oriental museum", with visitors from a cosmopolitan society. The new villas built in Moorish style added to the exotic atmosphere. On Sainte-Marguerite island, from 1841 to the 1880s, the first tourists could see hundreds of Algerian prisoners being deported to Fort Royal. Pictures and photographs from the period have preserved a record of the events.

Muslim prisoners on Sainte-Marguerite Island - Oil on canvas
Ernest Buttura (1841–1920)
© photo Germain