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The Myth of the Orient

Architecture and Ornament in the Age of Orientalism

Edited By Francine Giese and Ariane Varela Braga

This volume commemorates the 160th anniversary of the Selamlik of Oberhofen Castle near Thun – one of the most significant Swiss Orientalist interiors, designed by the Bernese architect Theodor Zeerleder (1820–1868) – by presenting the latest research on the spectacular smoking room inspired by the luxurious reception halls in Cairo, which Zeerleder discovered during his travels to the East. At the same time, this collection of essays explores the significance of the famous city on the Nile as a privileged model for 19th-century architecture and ornamentation, bringing together papers by Mercedes Volait (Paris), Romain Siegenfuhr (Paris), Richard Parisot (Besançon), Elke Pflugradt-Abdel Aziz (Düsseldorf), Tarek Ibrahim (Berlin), Vincenza Garofalo (Palermo), Andrea Lermer (München), Rémi Labrusse (Paris), Ariane Varela Braga (Zürich), Leïla el-Wakil (Genève), Francine Giese (Zürich) and Annette Loeffel (Bern).

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Abstracts and Biographies



Laboratoire InVisu (INHA/CNRS) Paris

Mercedes Volait is CNRS Research professor at the INHA (Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Paris) and specializes in the study of antiquarianism and architectural orientalism in modern Egypt. She recently authored Fous du Caire: Excentriques, architectes et amateurs d’art en Egypte (1867-1914) (2009), and edited Le Caire dessiné et photographié au XIXe siècle (2013).

Picturing and reviving Cairene interiors throughout the 19th century

European artists were impressed by the large halls that characterized Mamluk and Ottoman domestic architecture in Cairo. A closer look at the visual material produced in every possible media, from drawing to photography, suggests that the places depicted were mostly Christian homes or abandoned ones. With time, the artistic interest in Mamluk and Ottoman halls developed into a fashionable practice: their recreation in three dimensions in modern interiors, using plaster cast replicas, architectural salvages and historicist design, as exemplified by the mansions of Islamic art collectors Gaston de Saint-Maurice and Ambroise Baudry, built in 1872-79 in Cairo. ← 221 | 222 →


Musée du Quai Branly Paris

Graduated from the École du Louvre, Romain Siegenfuhr focussed on the study of Orientalism after having attended courses about oriental visions of European artists. As an art historian, lecturing-guide and official at the Quai Branly Museum, his current research concerns links between painting and photorealism in North Africa at the end of the 19th century.

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