This beautiful painting was created by the important Victorian artist, Henry Nelson O’Neil. O’Neil was trained at the Royal Academy in London, and exhibited many paintings there in the second half of the 19th Century. These included portraits, landscapes, history and genre paintings.
Henry Nelson O’Neil was a member of the ‘Clique’ – a group of young artists who sought to distance themselves from the traditional methods of the London Academy. He is chiefly remembered for his painting, ‘Eastward Ho’ (1857), which depicts British troops saying their farewells to loved ones, before sailing to India to fight the 1857 rebellion.
Titled ‘In The Harem’, this painting depicts a beautiful, young Turkish woman, reclining on a chair in a dimly-lit room, the dome of a mosque just visible in the distance outside. The harem is a part of a Muslim household that is reserved for women. This woman is depicted in colourful clothing, with pearls and a red rose in her hair. She rests one hand on a stringed musical instrument, and with the other clasps onto the gold necklace that she wears. She has a thoughtful, dreamy expression on her face.
O’Neil painted a number of Orientalist paintings of women in Greek and Turkish dress in the 1840s and 50s, similar to this one. These include ‘Eastern Lady’ in the Aberdeen Museum, ‘The Sultana’ (Christie’s, 30 November 2001 sale, lot 63), and the ‘Head of An Eastern Beauty’ (Sotheby’s, London sale 11 December 2007, lot 22A).
This painting is displayed in a carved giltwood frame. The piece comes with two labels, one outlines O’Neil’s career – noting key details, like how the artist was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1879 – and the other records how ‘In The Harem’ was exhibited at the 1957 Winter Exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Frame- Height 51cm, width 45cm, depth 6cm
Canvas- Height 33cm, width 28cm