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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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The Oberhofen Selamlik – a Cairene manḍara made in Switzerland



This paper presents the latest results of the ongoing research on the so-called Selamlik at Oberhofen Castle near Thun, completed in 1855 – one of the most significant Swiss Orientalist interiors (fig. 1). Investigation work started in 2013 on the occasion of the reopening of the Selamlik after its latest restoration1, and could be intensified during 2014 and 2015 within the framework of the research project Mudejarismo and Moorish Revival in Europe, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and based at the University of Zurich. The artistic quality and scientific importance of the documentation on the Selamlik and its architect, hold at the Burgerbibliothek in Bern, together with related material on other 19th century Orientalist interiors gave the impulse for the publication project The Orient in Switzerland. Neo-Islamic architecture and Interiors of the 19th and 20th centuries, which aims to highlight the mostly unknown neo-Islamic building tradition of Switzerland. To get an idea of the quality and diversity of these Swiss interiors, while at the same time remaining within the context of the paper’s topic, we shall take a look at two other neo-Islamic interiors, related by their function as smoking rooms with the Oberhofen Selamlik. ← 181 | 182 →

Fig. 1 – Oberhofen Castle, Selamlik, view from the west. Foto: Stiftung Schloss Oberhofen / Tom Kummer.

Neo-Islamic smoking rooms in Switzerland

As Ludwig Marczoch showed in his dissertation published in 1989, rooms specifically designed and furnished for the...

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