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3472 

JOHN FREDERICK LEWIS(London 1805-1876 Walton-on-Thames, Surrey)A fakeer at the door of a mosque - Constantinople. (A supplicating pilgrim at the door of a mosque - Constantinople). 1863.Watercolor, gouache, pencil.Signed and dated in brown pen at lower left: J.F.Lewis ARA 1863. stamped on the back of the framing: J & W Vokins, 14 Great Portland Street. There old handwritten label: 'The Mendicant Cairo by J.F. Lewis R.A.31,1 x 26 cm (sheet size: 33,5 x 32 cm). Framed.Provenance:- Christie's, London, Myles Birket Foster Collection, April 28, 1894, lot 24 (as: The Mendicant - Interior of a Turkish House), 1863. - Sotheby's, London, February 24, 1960, lot 47 (as: The Mendicant, Cairo).- Sotheby's, London, June 15, 1960, lot 18 (as: The Mendicant, Cairo).- Private property Switzerland.Exhibitions:- London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1891, watercolors, no.141 (as: The Mendicant). Literature:- The Athenaeum 21 February 1891, p.256; Major General Michael Lewis C.B.E., John Frederick Lewis R.A. 1805-1876, Leigh-on-Sea, F. Lewis Publishers Ltd, No. 586, p. 95 (as: A Mendicant).In 1864, the year after this watercolor was painted, Lewis was at the height of his career. His large painting The Hosh of the house of the Coptic Patriarch, Cairo was hung in a place of honor in the East Room of the Royal Academy (no. 110). An influential critic praised it as "one of the most brilliant of his paintings." .... The whole scene is full of life, color, and light (Athenaeum, May 7, 1864, p. 651). For the Times, while it was "somewhat bewildering by its variety-say 20 pictures in one," it was a "picture of wonderful detail.... The sunlight falls through the acacia branches and tests the pavement, while half light, half shadow, pigeons flutter and coo .... ' (April 30, 1864, p. 14). Three smaller paintings exhibited that year were also mentioned by critics. Among them, A Fakir at the Door of a Mosque - Constantinople (No. 133), which, as the Athenaeum noted, 'shows a priest sitting in the shade of a veranda, while outside in the sun stands a descendant of the Prophet with a green turban, imploring him. The picture is painted with greater breadth than is usual in Mr. Lewis" (1864, p. 651). This is clearly the scene depicted in the watercolor here, painted a year earlier. It is one of the duplicates Lewis routinely made of the oil paintings he intended to exhibit at the Royal Academy. It shows two men facing each other in the courtyard of a mosque. One is an arzuhalci (public letter writer) seated in the portico of a small building with an overhanging eaves-probably a Türbe (tomb)-whose open door with rolled leather curtain (perde) can be seen at left; next to him is his writing box/desk with quill and pen case (divit) on top. Outside in the courtyard stands his supplicant, a fakir or poor man (despite his green turban indicating his status as a hacı or Mecca pilgrim), asking for alms, which he apparently does not receive, since the arzuhalci, with a haughty expression on his face, does not look up from the open book (probably a religious text) that captures his attention. Lewis reinforces the divide between the two by placing one on a comfortable cushion in the coolness of the portico and leaving the other standing in the glare of the open courtyard. Around him are pigeons fluttering in the air and pecking at the ground, and above them the green leaves of a large tree-both echoes of the larger painting The Hosh, exhibited the same year. On the right is the şadırvan for ablutions, and in the background an open door reveals the room beyond with another mosque or doorbe. A secondary figure, also seated in the portico, is similarly engrossed in her writing. In the foreground is the sleepy, superbly characterized cat that so often appears in Lewis's paintings, especially in the company of a figure writing or reading. Western artists who depicted public letter writers in the East more often showed them writing letters dictated by women, emphasizing their illiteracy at a time when European women of all classes were more widely literate. Lewis himself had done his own version of this popular subject, The Arab Scribe, Cairo (Lusail Museum / Qatar Museums, Doha), in watercolor in 1852 for one of his first exhibitions at the Society of Painters, shortly after his eleven-year-old

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