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“Smoking concubines reveal to us the secret of the harem”, Professor Luthmer explained in 1894. This promising image is a sign board inviting tourists to the worlds of the Orient, developed by the occident to escape daily life, eroticized by the tales of The Arabian Nights. Hidden in the harem, the painting made the odalisque available for western eyes: lounging, dancing and above all, blatantly smoking. The Orient was “nicotinized”: fumes evoked dreams and hallucinations, as well as steamy sexual suggestions. But above all, it created an image of otherness since European women were not allowed to have a cigarette between their lips; this was the emblem for prostitutes. Even when photography came into fashion, these dream worlds were presented on postcards, rather than what was actually experienced.
Zooming in on Egypt, a pinch of pharaonic elegance could be added. Indeed, Egyptian tobacco was famous and used in the production of western cigarettes. Sold in eye-catching tin boxes, the Egyptian landscape illustrations soon changed into better selling eastern beauties, obviously tempting potential male users. Yet after the emancipation of tobacco in the west, the historical queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti invited tourist to the dream world of Egypt.

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Introduction: imagine a satisfying smoke

1“Always satisfying”, the Turkish blend “Fatima” promises us, in the years 1917 to 1919(fig.1) (McDonough, 2002: 943). In holding up a miniscule package, the oriental beauty actually offers you a cigarette. Which is remarkable, realizing it is an American brand. Why are Turkish notions -the name, the origin of the tobacco and the image- used to sing the praise of this western product? The answer is simple, it works. Here two appealing marketing tools are combined: the exotic, which not necessarily has to be related to the item to be sold, like an immense tube of toothpaste and a bottle of mouth water of the brand “Kalodont” are hanging on a camel’s saddle against the backdrop of a pyramid in the desert (1914). But also sex sells, as prove especially dozens of legendary car girls draped over the car hood over the years. The rhetoric of this Fatima advertisement not only combines the two elements, it suggests the availability of the female herself. She might look unapproachable behind the carpet over her balcony, veiled and all. Yet, she answers our gaze directly and at second glance her red mouth invitingly burns through the voile, “never disappointing” as the text explains.

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Figure 1. Frank Seaman Agency, Fatima Cigarettes, printed advertisement in magazines like Town and Country (1917-19)

Figure 1. Frank Seaman Agency, Fatima Cigarettes, printed advertisement in magazines like Town and Country (1917-19)

3The origins of the image are more complex, though. Fatima continues a tradition set a century previously, in which western tourists discovered the Middle East as the exotic hot spot to forget the western daily life. In his opening of the conference “The Eroticization of Tourist Sites”, Bernard Debarbieux related eroticism to imagination: his conclusion also forms an essential first answer why Fatima smokes. During their tour, travellers were (and are) searching for preconceived ideas of a highly sexualized society that the orient is supposed to be. And by bringing its lure back home, these concepts are taken for granted and firmly established. This process of erotizing the Orient was partly done with the help of tobacco; even more so, it was also, with a new notion I want to suggest, “nicotinized” by the West. I will unveil, so to speak, this process in this article, which reflects a rather extreme variation in the status of smoking.

4I approach the iconography from my background as an art historian, specialized in Egyptian art and its influences on modern art. In the context of Orientalist painting, numerous publications describe the art chronologically like Lemaire (2000) or Sweetman (ed) (1988), focussing in British and American culture, or beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogues such as the important “Europa und der Orient (800-1900)” (1989) or more recently “L’orientalisme en Europe. De Delacroix à Matisse” (2011).There are also appealing thematic publications about the harem (Peyraube, 2008) or oriental dancing, the effective “Serpent of the Nile” (Buonaventura, 1989) or the anthropologically researched “A trade like any other” (Van Nieuwkerk, 1995). Thorton’s “Women as portrayed in Orientalist Painting” (1994), has a theme useful for this research as I focus bothon the role of the female model like the femme fatale and the femme fragile, described in my “Wild Women” (2003), and its reception in contemporary art. What I want to do in order to research our theme “The Eroticization of Tourist Sites”, is to extract and analyze the erotic evocations introduced in nineteenth-century painting, especially embodied by the smoking odalisque. To pursue the relationship through the more recent era, I also include the new medium of photography in how the developments followed the perception of the East from the earlier painting.

5Since “tobacciana” is my thematic element, its advertisement in magazines and on the packages confirms the image as developed in painting and photography. This follows my method of researching the reception of nineteenth-century painting depicting Egypt in popular culture as in the painting “The rest on the flight to Egypt” by Luc Olivier Merson (2015). But I think it is also worthwhile to combine different media to understand the continuity, since most publications are still media bound, like in the context of tourism interesting publications on “The Orientalist Poster” (Slaoui, 1997)or about film (Bernstein, Studlar, 1997), although interrelations between the media become more common: film fragments were convincingly combined with paintings in the exhibition of Jean-Léon Gérôme in the Musée d’Orsay (2010) in Paris and Lawrence Alma-Tadema (2017) in the Dutch Fries Museum in Leeuwarden.

6When using nineteenth century painting as an indicator how the Orient was eroticized, there are –besides the smoking-two other related topics: the western view point from which the imaginative world was created and the role of the female model. First these will be discussed in Orientalism; its makers often visited accessible countries. Yet what they saw was not always what was represented: a hint of a voyeuristic view in otherwise unapproachable places developed to become a standard. The introduction of photography changed the relation to the experienced reality although the canonical images remained the focus. These influenced popular culture in the early twentieth century; in relation to tourism especially, picture postcards brought the exotic world into the western family rooms, and set expectations contemporary tourists are still looking for. Fatima-like advertisements not only trivialised the image, at the end of the nineteenth century the well-played out message also emancipated the habit of smoking for western women, confirmed when strong trend-setting actresses lit up their cigarettes. When the provocation became a norm, now other activities had to underline the erotic appeal of the Oriental sisters.

Between anthropological researcher andpainter of 1001-nights-fantasies: Gérôme as artist-traveller

  • 1 He made his first trip with writer Emile Augier (1820-1889), sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1 (...)

7We start our journey with a typical nineteenth century traveler who explored the Orient intensely, the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). After having visited Rome in 1843, he went to Turkey: “My short stay in Constantinople had whetted my appetite”, he explained his series of trips to Asia Minor. After visiting Egypt in 1856, this country turned out to be his favorite (Ackerman, 1986: 337)1. He was no exception, many artists set sail for adventure: artistically the countries offered inspiration, like the bright light that differed so much from the European sun. It worked when brought home: Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) remarked that he could still experience the warm sunduring the night, almost like a fever, after having seen Eugène Fromentin’s (1820-1876) “Un Été dans le Sahara” at the Salon of 1859 (Zarobell, 2010: 76).

8But Gérôme did more: with sincere interest he explored these unfamiliar worlds, living for four months on a sailboat on the Nile and even makingthe effort to learn the Arabic language. In an almost pseudo-scientific manner he actually studied individual features of exotic variety in different personalities, following the example of previous anthropological attemptslike Berlin sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow’s (1764-1850) studies of the diversity in proportions that distinguished gender, age and ethnicity. Also Gérôme aspired to represent the wide variety of what was available in the east; he painted both male figures, like numerous Bashi-Bazouks of the Ottoman army, and females, like Circassian beauties (fig.2).

Figure 2. Jean-Léon Gérôme, “Veiled Circassian Lady” circa 1876, oil on canvas, lot 42 at Christies Sale 7587, 2008.

Figure 2. Jean-Léon Gérôme, “Veiled Circassian Lady” circa 1876, oil on canvas, lot 42 at Christies Sale 7587, 2008.
  • 2 The Scottish artist David Wilkie (1785-1841) even refused to paint Europeans during his tour of 184 (...)

9With a specific Oriental touch, Gérôme showed off his virtuosity in combining richly decorated textiles, like the shiny gold embroidery on the silky blue fabric that contrasts with the Circassian’s fine ivory skin and the contrasting textures of the translucent black veil versus the heavy carpet her arm rests upon. Gérôme searched the bazaars for specimens of authentic clothing (Ackerman, 2008), used in the depiction of its widely divergent population. Beside the sun, tight fitting caftans with jewelled clasps of the Turkish costumes “à la sultane” were brought to the west, and already stole the hearts of trend-setting ladies a century previous: in 1778 Marie-Antoinette dressed herself and her household in these alluring dresses. Napoléon’s campaign in Egypt, 1798, brought Mameluke tunics to the western wardrobe (Thornton, 1994: 8), and after a visit of a Turkish ambassador in 1802 the turban and materials with Oriental motifs came into fashion. The now greater number of people travelling to the Middle East not only resulted in more first-hand examples of motifs and models, many commissioned a portrait of themselves in Eastern dress or wearing the fez in the 1860s-1870s2. Wearing wealthy fancy dresses particularly guaranteed the Demi-Monde a jaw-dropping entrance at masquerades and costumed balls, events that underlined the western appetite for “putting oneself in oriental shoes.”

10At the same time, recognizing these well-known exotic fabrics, granted credibility to these portraits. The proof in the pudding were accessories like the innocently held stick by the Circassian, recognized by the connoisseur as the long stemmed pipe named hookah. Smoke ware was brought home as an exotic souvenir, as were decorated metal platters that could lay on top of the inlaid mother-of-pearl side-tables on which polychrome earthenware was placed. Its mimetic depiction made it easy to imagine the setting as actually studied after reality. It creates a what Barthes (2002) calls- “effet de réel”: an (insignificant looking) detail that heightens the realistic upshot of the total image. In this context, as we shall see later, the pipe also surrounds the model with a less innocent content.

  • 3 The contemporary critics Ernest Chesneau, Marius Chaumelin, Théophile Thoré-Bürger and Léon Lagrang (...)
  • 4 Gérôme based this “racial theories” on Arthur de Goubineau’s “Essay on the Inequality of the Human (...)

11Gérôme’s “anthropological” approach resulted in a new substyle called Ethnographic Orientalism; “there he excels” even his opponent Charles Blanc (1867: 169) had to admit. More critics praised his accuracy and novelty that succeeded due to the literary sources combined by Gérôme’s own observations and research in the land of origin3. His biographer Ackerman (1986: 58) titles him, decades later, as a “descriptive scientist”. But other opinions are also heard, especially with regards to Gérôme’s use of the grand style of official, academic painting for a new, vulgar subject: his approach is judged -according to standards of 1994- as “racist” (Eisenman 1994: 234)4.

12This rather harsh conclusion follows the observation that a colonial superiority emanates from the pieces in which eastern countries with their exotic inhabitants are presented: it shows a dream world based on stories like Alf Laylah wa Laylah, better known as The Arabian Nights. Edward Said, especially, explicated his literary-based theory that this concept of the Orient was a stereotyped fantasy in his important book “Orientalism” (1978). Orientalism was not just developed to oppose the cold and grey Occident, but as an imperialistic tool that reinforced the Western European colonial dominance, an element that is broadly examined in all kinds of publications. Gérôme’s attempt to frame the available ethnic groups may indeed be considered western, yet it is also essential to realize that the Orientalist painters were a product of their own time, largely unaware of this politically incorrect approach towards the Orient. Being consciously engaged with political suppression would therefore be an anachronism.

13Beside his serious and “anthropological studies”, however, Gérôme also painted interiors that fit Edward Saïd’s description better as an example of the western domination: multifigured interiors increasing a harem effect (Kalmar, 2004: 220).Here an even more appealing smoking tool often finished the oriental still life, the waterpipe or nargileh. Popular since it could stand on its own while the flexible mouthpiece allowed the smoke to be shared, allowing multiple smokers in the scene. The accompanying dark attendants, never depicted fully nude, serving the smoke to the always white mistresses confirm Saïd’s imperial theories.

Oriental odalisques as opponents of the occidental lady

14Indeed, these harem ladies with or without servants were no longer the result of an intense “scientific” approach depicting an authentic group of women. An (empty) interior of a bathhouse could actually be visited by male tourists, to experience the architecture, the tiles used and especially the sunbeams penetrating the little glasses in the domed roof with its special effects shining through the steam. Yet, if Gérôme and his colleagues actually saw a harem or hamam crowded with females is not even the question: they didn’t because they couldn’t.

  • 5 Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu is the best known example when she shared the public bath in Adrianople w (...)

15Female travelers, on the other hand, could sometimes succeed in their attempt to be invited; their visit not always resulted in the expected experience due to the labyrinthine space and the feeling of being watched without the protective company of the male travel companions (Roberts, 2007: 82)5. The anomalous reports of travelers never resulted in revised images of the harem, neither were the actual experiences and observations “after nature” by the artists. All images are rather a textual incorporation after the successful translations of Scheherazade; Richard Burton delivered a new version in 1885 and Joseph Charles Mardrus again between 1899 and 1904, and that in sixteen volumes. These resulted especially in what I call “epic paintings”, with a different impact than the “portraits”; the more complex, multifigured composition offered more narrative settings, even when the women displayed inactivity.

16Her sultry gaze and languid poses were highly suggestive; in England the word “Turkish” became synonymous with naughtiness already in the eighteenth-century, developing a code word for indecency (Thornton, 1994: 118-19). And this domicile as forbidden ground not only made the places all the more titillating, it allowed a westerner to “develop” his “own” imaginative world, or rather, establish the erotic impact that already surrounded these places. Its naughty impact is illustrated in iconic paintings like Eugène Delacroix’s (1798-1863) “Femmes d’Alger” (1834), with a slightly opened door in the background and the circular form of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’(1780-1867) “Bain Turque” (1863),giving the impression of peeping into these desired dream worlds. That is why the beholder now could identify with the only male who, beside the eunuch, actually had access to the harem: the owner. The Sultan.

17This uncovers the second topic in Orientalism: the female stereotype. Art historian Linda Nochlin (1989) implied Said’s theories on painting and particularly decoded the numerous harem ladies as typical male products. They were in their own context as the harem was a well-organized household system, never and nowhere as a touristic excursion on any program: these places were inaccessible for visitors, especially male. To make the cheeky impact of the odalisques in those days more comprehensible, we have to realize we speak about the Victorian era in which Western women were expected to dress and behave decently. She had to wear a corset. She was supposed to be covered up with high necklines and long sleeves, loose locks tied together in a trimmed bun. Early photography even reveals this outfit to be her travel-costume, riding a camel or not. Sophisticated ladies were already received as provocative by showing their ankles, despite being covered by their boots.

18Remarkably, both “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” and “Olympia” Edouard Manet (1832-1883) exhibited in 1863, contained substantially fewer nudes than Ingres’s “Turkish Bath” from the same year, yet these turned out to be scandal pieces: the nudes were considered plain pornography. They lacked the geographical signifying turban or draperies with oriental motifs swapping their “own” French ladies with a sigh of relief into a faraway world of otherness.

19These nudes by Manet are not smoking; that is to say, not yet. Women smoking turned out to be a pleasant sight, but until then this sight or image of western ladies was not available. Or as Margolin stated (Hills, 2002: 221): “mythical ladies of pleasure could smoke a Murad, but not the girl next door.” Indeed, a respectable smoking female before 1870s painting is a contradictio in terminis. Even the in our eyes harmless looking captain Frederick Burnaby, a dyed-in-the-wool traveller portrayed by James Tissot (1836-1902) in 1870, underlines the subtle conventions of smoking in those days. His smoking and the crossed legged lounging pose were considered too inappropriate for female’s eyes: he sits in a smoking room for men only. Yet in fine arts, painters focused mainly on depictions of female users (Gilman, 2004).

The deviant act of smoking

  • 6 References like these can be read in magazines, like The New-York Mirror, Vol. 9 (1831), 206.

20Here we meet the central element that grants the odalisque her erotic meaning: smoking. From its introduction in seventeenth-century painting, tobacco already was used for its deviant connotation and therefore co-established the new Dutch protestant identity (Gately, 2001: 82)6. Thus the unsophisticated pipe smokers in genre painting opposed the highbrow Mannerism strongly rooted in tradition with subjects referring to classical antiquity. When smoking was replaced by the taking of snuff, the pipes with the extreme long stems could become an exclusively exotic attribute, as depicted in Jean-Étienne Liotard’s (1702-1789) “Turkish woman in a hamam” (ca.1742).

21Also the odalisque embodied a controversy, yet instead of the Dutch “down-to-earth-effect”, her executing the exotic act of taking a puff opposes her as a vision against her western sister. Obviously, she did not choose this identity herself; western painters “granted” her these specific qualities of otherness. Her anonymity, being “far away” and unclear status defined her as an outlaw model, making smoking (and nudity) possible for her, while in western hands a cigarette would emblematically relegate the female to a bad wife (Gilman, 2004: 297).Which was exactly the connotation that was played out when from the 1870’s Manet started giving (dressed) western females a smoke in their hand (Hallum, 2016),and not just Manet: Impressionists like Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Post-Impressionist artists like Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) developed a taste for smoking (and absinth drinking) females being therefore of easy virtue: the standard iconography of sitting at a café table, confirms the morally indecent characters in those days (Clayson, 2003: 96).

  • 7 Iconographically seen this use is similar to the arabesque shaped mist coming from an incense burne (...)

22From this time on the cigarette, an obvious phallic symbol (Hallum, 2016), could also replace the hookah and the nargileh. Beside the obvious physical connotations, the fumes evoked more steamy sexual suggestions: the streamer in the advert by “Tipalet” from 1955 lay bare more associations of smoking and sexual activities: “Blow in her face and she will follow you anywhere.”When Jean-Jules-Antoine-Lecomte du Noüy’s (1842-1923) “White Slave” just blows out a puff from her cigarette, Čelebonović (1974: 17) promptly reads her as a prostitute. But, in contrast with the bar sitters, most oriental ladies hardly actually smoke, despite the attractive iconography of suggestive curling fumes7 or the artistically interesting possibility to obscure elements in the composition. Whatever smoking device they hold in their hand functions more as an attribute, specifically as an erotic signifier.

  • 8 As Delacroix describes the inhabitants of Tangiers in a letter from 1832: ‘les Romains et les Grecs (...)

23It becomes all the more clear when comparing the anonymous odalisques to literary based protagonists like Judit and Salome. Despite their location Judit and Salomé never smoke as it was just not part of their story and they already had to carry their attributes: the sword and the metal platter respectively. These well-known characters lived in Roman times8, but now equaled their contemporary inhabitants of the east geographically also as “timeless” or perhaps even “primitif”, they are in any case perceived as outside the western community. Hand in hand with the odalisques these Biblical characters changed from original heroines to fin-de-siècle seductresses, visible in their poses and their gowns that since 1834 transformed from antique gowns to the “light” ethnic outfits (Thornton, 1994: 148).

24For contemporary odalisques, slipped into anonymity, a smoke could add that little extra so eagerly sought after in the Victorian era: it was a suggestive “emblem of women’s erotic life. At least that is how it appears to men, for whom the sight of women smoking is both threatening and intensely, voyeuristically exciting” (Klein, 1993: 160).

25The odalisque’s association with prostitution perhaps also reflects the actual situation of models posing: smoking oriental females were not actually to be found, so the artist had to stage the scene. Sometimes obvious western girls were orientalized, but in many cases the brothel indeed was the place to obtain models (Gilmar, 2004: 224): these women overcame their religious and social conventions and were willing to pose rather scantily clad under the direction of a western photographer or commissioner.

  • 9 To keep their soldiers healthy. With almost 2500 casualties of venereal diseases it was not that su (...)

26Prostitution flourished in Cairo, in the Azbakiyyah area, advocated by local writers, but also British traveller Edward William Lane found the place and explained ghawazi women being sexually available, originally low-class entertainment musicians and public dancers that performed for a mixed audience opposed the more refined awalim for a female audience (Lane, 2006: 380). The availability changed after the French campaign in 1798 when the authorities tried to ban prostitution, after which it spread, less regulated, to the countryside (Hammad and Biancani, 2017: 239-40)9. This became stronger when Muhammed ‘Ali (1769-1849) closed brothels officially and banished dancing in Cairo in 1834. Yet the travel journal of novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), who visited Egypt in 1849-50, revealed the practices just moved to the south, especially Esna. His encounters with the almeh again resulted in rather stereotyped descriptions.

27From the 1860 the sex workers returned under Khedive Isma’il (1830-95), the time that Cairo expanded as a metropolis and changed structurally under the British occupation from 1882. At a time of national and international migration going on, mass tourism also developed. With the expectations based on the images of females equipped with a hookah, a nargileh or a cigarette disclosed the message to western males. They were submissive and sexually free, or to rephrase it in contemporary words of the alpha male: ready to be grabbed.

Figure 3. Carl Ludvig Emil Jensen, “Kvinde-emancipation” (Emancipation of the female), circa 1900, caricature, C. E. Jensen, Karikatur Album, Kopenhagen 1912.

Figure 3. Carl Ludvig Emil Jensen, “Kvinde-emancipation” (Emancipation of the female), circa 1900, caricature, C. E. Jensen, Karikatur Album, Kopenhagen 1912.

28How strongly smoking became interwoven with the Orient shows in a 1890s caricature, here presenting the new woman (or: the males fear for her)(fig.3): her “man spread pose” suggests control, while sitting on a couch next to a shy man, acting out a more trite female body language. Despite being dressed in a corset, the smoking grants her power and freedom, confirmed by other elements stemming from the Orientalist canon: a tiger skin in front of them and an oriental brass pitcher standing on an inlaid table. A century later the personification of a “Camel” cigarette replaced the odalisque when collapsed on a sofa beside a palmtree. The richly decorated fabrics in warm reds and gold breathe the well-known atmosphere, the highly stacked fruit bowl as a lavishly modernized still life with a suggestively opened pomegranate under the couch. The streamer reads, just in style, “Sometimes you just can’t resist a camel”. The notions of seduction were still effective.

The Orient photographed

29Where text and painting created the appealing images of the exotic dreamworld, the new medium developed in the early nineteenth century confirmed the credibility of tourist places: photography. As soon as the daguerreotype was introduced at the French Academy of Sciences, in 1839, Arago (1980: 17) recognized its possibility to document “exact and rapid” copies of ancient Egyptian monuments. Under the leadership of Orientalist painter Horace Vernet (1789-1863), who joined the French army to Algiers in 1833, and dagguerreotypist Frédéric Goupil-Fesquet (1817-1878), a newly organised expedition set off for Egypt, with the mission to “collect” pharaonic antiquities. This early use of photography made the Orient an almost standard specialty which played a crucial role in its development (Ali Behdad, 2013: 1).

30But there were more opportunities: already the same year locals were registered with an identical, almost anthropological intention, as Gérôme showed in his portraits (fig.4). The characteristic of photography even surpasses painting in catching reality: despite painterly attempts to evoke a world as it could exist, a photo must be taken from an actual person or object from the physical world (Cheung, 2010: 19). No wonder these models were -at least at the start- being portrayed dressed instead of being - half-nude as in painting.

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Figure 4. “Alexandrie: Femme Arabe” ca. 1890, hand colored picture postcard.

Figure 4. “Alexandrie: Femme Arabe” ca. 1890, hand colored picture postcard.

32The ultimate piece of clothing now used to bring the exotic touch was the veil, Malek Alloula describes the preoccupation in her “The colonial harem” (1986). It brought Arab males sexual visual access to local women, respectable Muslim women were not available in real life (Bishop, 2006: vol.1, 45). In addition to the transparent samples painters showed, now also the thick, black veils appeared in photographs, together with the nose covering leather tube correctly indicating Egyptian fashion. But they were not always that accurate: Alloula unmasked the added title “young Bedouin woman”, relating them to their supposed geographical origin, categorized as a Berber “kabyle girl” on a different postcard (Alloula, 1986: 44-45). Vogelsang-Eastwood (1996: 51) rendered the false combination of clothing, mixing indoor clothing with types of veils normally worn by high rank women outside the house.

33The search for the exotic effect was more important from the start of photography: at first glance we perceive a spontaneous scene of a veiled woman riding a donkey as truthful documentation of a daily occurring event, parallel to the narrative harem settings in painting (fig.5).A closer look also shows this setting is somewhat clumsy staged, since it is not that rapidly taken: technically the production of a negative took some time. The slightly blurred donkey’s head shows its movement, revealing the boy’s struggle to hold his frontal pose while at the same time controlling the uncooperative mount. By its generous framing this picture gives away the use of a back-cloth used by the Zangaki brothers, professionals traveling along the Nile to document the Egyptian scenery with their carriage that functioned as a darkroom (Hannavy, 2013: 1521). Now the early “documentary” portraits of different tribes and locations as known from painting were equalled by every day scenes of native life: especially carrying water in the photogenic jars and holding a child on the shoulder became popular. These sceneries could even serve as a pictorial example for artists.

Figure 5. Constantine Zangaki, “Femme arabe sour [sic] budet” ca. 1860-1890, Albumen print as a picture postcard.

Figure 5. Constantine Zangaki, “Femme arabe sour [sic] budet” ca. 1860-1890, Albumen print as a picture postcard.

34The Cretan or Cypriot brothers are representative for the upcoming group of professional photographers in Egypt, often Greeks settling in places with a lot of transient safter the opening of the Suez Canal. Most passengers visited Cairo by train during the coaling of the ships in Port Said, rejoining them in Suez. Clever entrepreneurs were active here and even having professional equipped photo studios in Suez, Port Said and in Cairo near the hotel areas, always used for westerners who could be portrayed in native costumes, following the painterly tradition (Osman, 1997: 45).

35But even more popular became the “models” invited into the studios to recreate the well-known exotic illusion, in between inlaid tables, cushions, nargilehs (fig.6). A back-cloth, often recognizable as such where it touches the carpet on the floor, now suggests the architecture of an interior. This example curiously brings the pyramids and the Great Sphinx inside, the Egyptian setting confirmed by the pharaonic motif of a winged scarab on the vase a-chronistically placed on an Arabic inlaid table.

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Figure 6. Zangaki Brothers, “Egyptian lady” 1890-1900, picture postcard

Figure 6. Zangaki Brothers, “Egyptian lady” 1890-1900, picture postcard

37The popularity of these images soon boomed due to its accessibility in magazine reproductions and especially when re-worked into picture postcards, even when the colorful painted world now was represented in black and white. Sure, the image could be colored in by hand, yet the stronger light and dark contrast always resulted in a harsher image. Experienced or not, the traveller could now easily share his ultimate experiences with his relatives at home, or collect it as an “individual memory”.

38It turned to a “cartomania” from the 1870s (Weill, 1978: 4), soon becoming collector’s items. New series on specific themes developed for which eventually special albums were designed: the first series on the Middle East was presented by N.M. Lerebours around 1841. It’s domestic and commercial purpose again defined the content to represent the western expectations of the orient as already known from literature and paintings (Starr, 2009: 1).

39And again the popular smoke ware became the accessory to indicate the supposed promiscuous character of the oriental female. When any sort of action must have been suggested, it underlined her passivity and sexual availability: she was long and leisuring, smoking the nargileh or houkah. But especially in early photography the suggestive act of smoking can be considered evocative enough; the Alexandrian lady of fig.4 holds the cigarette more than actually using it: it is not even lit. Also Fatima herself is having a hard time smoking, wearing her veil.

40No wonder still in this period the oriental woman’s otherness and anonymity resulted in a highly eroticized depiction that again was not possible for western women: she appears bare breasted under the supposed covering veil (fig.7). Explicitly pornographic postcards depicting (partly) nude eastern women outnumbered their European counterparts, ironically as a result of the developed “scientific ethnic nature” in both painting as photography (Schmidt and La Rock, 2017). A striking case in the point the orient was eroticized: coming from a hot climate, oriental people were granted a lustful character by westerners. Even the French-born doctor Antoine-Barthelemy Clot, working for the Egyptian army, stated that colonial Egyptian women having a “voluptuous temperament” (Fahmy, 1998). The geographical distance is why depictions like this could be accepted: albeit the offensiveness of pornography, sending these exotic postcards was not a problem at all; mail offices did not even censor these images and neither was the sender in danger of legal trouble.

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Figure 7. Zangaki Brothers, “Femme Egyptienne - Egyptian Woman” circa 1900, picture postcard.

Figure 7. Zangaki Brothers, “Femme Egyptienne - Egyptian Woman” circa 1900, picture postcard.

From viewing smokers to be seduced by a cigarette

42No wonder that such attractive iconography of seduction soon was used for other purposes, as shown by the Algerian cigarette brand “Melia”. The studio images used for picture postcards now evolved to selling advertisements, that is to say, the less explicit ones. Yet a large risqué proportion showed women in sexually suggestive positions, not only indicating the male consumer; she relates the depictions literally to the legal, flourishing sex industry in these countries (Shechter, 2006: 52).

43The photos were then transformed to cigarette cards to stiffen the soft packs, but above all as a marketing tool. James Buchanan Duke of American Tobacco Company developed this card that as early as 1885 turned into a collectable (Gilman, 2007: 20). Allen & Ginter used Vernet’s painting “The Lion hunt” from 1836 as a decoration for one of their premium albums from ca. 1880s. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, in Egypt alone 27 companies circulated 130 different series of cigarette cards.

44During their tour, European artists advocated their experiences of joining in smoking the chibouk. In France Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), both members of the Club des Haschichins joining secret smoking sessions in the Hôtel Pimodan, published “On Hashees” and “On Opium”. Its popularity increased when periodicals devoted to smoking appeared and the caterpillar Absalom used the waterpipe intensely in Lewis Carroll’s (1832-1898) “Alice Adventures in Wonderland” of 1865. And like the costumes and souvenirs before, also smoking was brought home, Arabian inspired smoking rooms like in Antoni Gaudi’s (1852-1926) Casa Vicens (1888) accomplished the interior.

45But it was the cigarette that conquered the western world; especially after the Crime an war in 1854 when trendsetting soldiers brought home eastern cigarettes. Turkish tobacco and Egyptian cigarettes became especially popular from the 1880s due to a novelty in world production and marketing: packaging. When wrapped, the flavors were maintained. But when adding eye-catching illustrations of oriental landscapes, the viewer was allowed to see “directly into the distant land of origin” (Ciarlo, 2011: 153), introduced by the lithographer J.C. Lagoudakis in Egypt.

46This mobile advertisement worked, colorful cardboard or tin cans led to an increasing number of smokers and soon its success turned cigarettes into Egypt’s major export product. This was remarkable: Egyptian-grown tobacco was of such poor quality that in 1890 its cultivation was banned. Many Ottoman tobacco merchants, usually ethnic Greeks and later Armenians like the Kyriazi frères, used Turkish tobacco to be sold as Egyptian cigarettes from Cairo or Alexandria, using their own name as a brand. Now travellers could also bring their well packed cigarettes back home, but the packages were also shipped to European countries where they sold for much higher prices. To reach their important target group, manufacturers advertised in international papers and even travel guides (For the development of the cigarette market in Egypt: Shechter, 2006).

47Marketing techniques developed still further. The Dimitrino brothers replaced the landscapes by more arousing (read: selling) odalisques to great effect, following the proved successful formulae of orientalist painting. Not the cigarette itself but the act of smoking provided status, desirability or pleasure was advocated (Gilman, 2007: 21). A tin shows a reclining female on her sofa behind an inlaid table on which an opened cigarette box stands (fig.8). While taking a puff she looks under arches and over her shoulder “into the land of origin”: peasant women collect water on the banks of the Nile, behind them the village is visible between the palm trees.

48

Figure 8.Dimitrino & Co, “Cairo, Egypt”, ca. 1910, cigarette tinbox.

Figure 8.Dimitrino & Co, “Cairo, Egypt”, ca. 1910, cigarette tinbox.

Figure 9. Dimitrino & Co, “Cairo, Egypt”, ca. 1910, print.

Figure 9. Dimitrino & Co, “Cairo, Egypt”, ca. 1910, print.

49A paper label shows the same interior, yet here it shows the redeemable landscape: now she gazes at the sphinx and the pyramids behind Islamic domed houses, combining antique and oriental architecture (fig.9). But there are more clever improvements: the textual addition of international agents, “from America to India etc. etc.,” as well as the announcement of “special manufactory” granted the cigarette brand a higher status, confirmed by the eagle on both the cigarette box lid as the heraldic sign. The ornamentation upgraded the Egyptian cigarette which now was commonly known for its high quality, the typical pharaonic monuments indicate the origin even more specific.

50The importance of attractive packaging with a little extra was recognized as being equal in terms of selling to the product -the cigarette- itself. From the “Dimitrino” brand again, soon a dark servant follows the constellation of painting, now reducing the importance of the pale landscape. The lounging, white skinned mistress under the pink canopy is offered a cigarette from the opened box, presumably the same one we were looking at. Here the act of smoking is replaced from the actual society where cigarettes ironically known as “torches of freedom” (Gilman, 2007: 22) but were still not supposed to be smoked openly by actual women. It wase volving into a symbol of women’s rights.

  • 10 Lawrence Alma-Tadema, (1836-1912), “The meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra: 41 BC (Opus CCXLVI),” oil (...)

51Although not specifically accentuated, also on this tinbox a new pinch of pharaonic elegance is added, visible in the decoration of the barque and the flute player (fig.10). It is modelled after a painting by Lawrence Alma Tadema (1836-1912)10. The smoking lady originally turns out to be Cleopatra! For the sake of effect, the historical woman fused with the iconography of the anonymous odalisques as Marc Anthony from the original is deleted, and the dark servant is added.

Figure 10. Dimitrino & Co, “Cigarettes Egyptiennes”, (after Alma Tadema’s “Cleopatra”) 1910s, cigarette tinbox

Figure 10. Dimitrino & Co, “Cigarettes Egyptiennes”, (after Alma Tadema’s “Cleopatra”) 1910s, cigarette tinbox

52This strategy worked, and soon numerous brands were no longer named after their producer’s but rather given alluring names like Cleopatra or Salomé; text is also a major part in sending the message, an element the anonymous odalisque lacked. Advertisements showed the tendency to follow the new status painters of the fin de siècle gave her: her name also promises seduction, after all she was able to tempt two of the most powerful Roman leaders. Yet on the cigarette box she is not represented as a historical queen in pharaonic clothing: she became orientalized.

53In 1934 the hand colored movie photo starring Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra advocates the American brand “Old gold”, but Oriental related names like “the Snake charmer”, “Egyptian deities” and “our” “Fatima” more often served the same purpose. It was all the more necessary, since now several of these boxes originated from western countries, especially from German cities like Dresden and Berlin, where cigarettes with American tobacco were produced. Never to spoilsport of taking over a successful concept, was the exotic appeal that the Orient granted to smoking re-used as a sales illustration.

  • 11 Thanks for the information: Annelen Ottermann, Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek Mainz.

54The Austrian brand “Sphinx” added Egypt’s icon to give smoking an exquisite atmosphere: on the promotional tin box the lounging female on a chaise longue is set against the combination of long ago (the pyramids) and far away (the minarets) (fig.11). Motifs like these were theorized in popular style advice, such as Georg Rehlender (1845-1892) published (fig.12)11. In the preface, the title is flanked by two examples of females sitting on the back of sphinxes. These source books were not only used by western artists, the alluring motifs were isolated for the purpose of selling. The protagonist praising the Sphinx cigarette shows striking iconographical similarities with Rehlender’s frontispiece, especially in the remarkable nuanced details like the pharaonic vulture headdress and a wesech collar of the lounging female on the left side. Also the right sphinx carries its royal beard slightly lifted up. Both Rehlender and the “Sphinx” cigarette were based in Vienna, making Rehlender the potential designer of this specific cigarette tin.

55

Figure 11. Georg Rehlender, “Egyptische Cigarretten, Kaiserlich-Königliche Tabak Regie”, ca. 1880. Cigarette tinbox.

Figure 11. Georg Rehlender, “Egyptische Cigarretten, Kaiserlich-Königliche Tabak Regie”, ca. 1880. Cigarette tinbox.

Figure 12. Georg Rehlender, “Vorwort” (detail) 1894.Frontispiece for: Allerlei Sinnbilder, 24 Tafeln Berlin: Nessling & Spielmeyer 1894.

Figure 12. Georg Rehlender, “Vorwort” (detail) 1894.Frontispiece for: Allerlei Sinnbilder, 24 Tafeln Berlin: Nessling & Spielmeyer 1894.

56Popular beauties of Les Mille et Une Nuits were actually smoking “forbidden fantasies”, after all the Orient became a successful trade mark after the Colonial Exhibitions held in Marseille in 1906 and 1922. The exotic model, either wearing creams, perfumes, toothpaste, “guaranteed to make the user irresistible” (Thornton 1994: 18-19). Their kohl rimmed eyes and intense red lips indeed distinguished them even more strongly from their respectable western sisters, for whom make-up was limited to whitening facial powder before the First World War (Batchelor, 2002: 99). But odalisques did more: “frank sensuality of the woman on the cigar-box label was surpassed only by pornographic images,” as Mitchell concludes (Gilman, 2007: 298-99). Meanwhile more and more tourists started to experience the dream world during tours, the world changed.

57The interest in smoking exploded since the birth of modern advertising, using the plethora of cheap newspapers and magazines, and public images on billboards. Also the commercial growth of tobacco made it now socially accepted for western women, there even appeared cigarette brands for women only. First well-known women, adapting the male’s clichés to profile themselves, indeed, as the New Woman. The novelist Colette (1873-1954) played with gender, a smoke in her hand, while the languid way Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) blew out her smoke became her signature style, while indeed dressed in a male’s suit. The erotic connotation remained, as suggestive performances show: a woman filling a pipe, sucking a mouth piece or filter tip: especially advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s use these associations in selling streamers: “Do you inhale?” or “Is your cigarette a complete bust?”

58Yet its impact seems to have twisted, what happened to the motif of smoking after its emancipation? It was no longer used to attract tourists with this highly sensual habit. Egypt itself now seems to replace the oriental attraction for pharaonic females with alluring associations: the cigarette “Cleopatra”, obviously manufactured for the tourist market, sounds appealing, yet the decoration sobered up. After her discovery in the 1920’s, soon anew eternal beauty played out her charms inseducing tourists. Nefertiti, forming a team with the great Giza sphinx, announces a dream journey, now by air (fig. 13). Ironically, though, the unique bust this woman is “modelled” after, hardly represents Egypt: it belongs to the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.

Figure 13. U&O (Urbi et Orbi), “N’en rêver plus… allez-y!1960’s for Air France, black and white photocollage advert.

Figure 13. U&O (Urbi et Orbi), “N’en rêver plus… allez-y!” 1960’s for Air France, black and white photocollage advert.

Conclusion

59When traveling to the Middle East, a lot of tourists have in mind an illusion that was largely developed throughout the nineteenth century. Despite their good intentions, painter-travellers of those days largely created a fictional dream world representing accessible Middle Eastern countries, in a search for everything the west was not. To start with, for their painterly eye warmth, bright colours and a beautiful light were found.

60The topics they depicted still resemble how most of us take our souvenir-photos: we chose and select the most breath taking viewpoints with the most photogenic persons and topics. The orient offered beautiful “strange” attributes, like the so far not even mentioned high hamam slippers, in exclusive materials like inlaid wood and chiselled metal ware. But even more important, the people were admired and depicted for their otherness; even when the artists visited and researched the countries they truly loved long and frequently, a lot of idealized tableaus were created.

61When focusing on the female model, we see her doing things that also were not allowed for her western sisters: looking defiantly at the viewer, showing bare skin caught in the act of dancing or bathing. Despite the suggestion of the daily practice, eastern artefacts were convincing lyadded to the composition, artists saw eastern ladies neither in a harem or hamam: they are not women of flesh and blood but phantoms sprouting the artist’s phantasies. Like a fata morgana they arouse a sexual desire of the makers and viewers as an echo of the alluring stories of the Arabian nights. These images are more understandable when realizing they are made in the Victorian erain which western women were completely dressed up, wearing corsets and all. An activity that evoked this aphrodisiac meaning even more was smoking. Odalisques were holding the long stemmed pipes, water pipes or cigarettes so much, we could state the Orient was also “nicotinized”. This act was associated with prostitutes in the west.

62When photography developed, one of the first places to document everything was again the orient. With this different, more direct medium, women were portrayed at first more properly dressed. Yet the cigarette and the veil still granted the models the seductive character: just as in painting, these represented worlds can be analysed as theatrical settings in professional photo studios instead of the suggested snap shot from the real world there. The relation with the orient and tobacco became so strong these images were soon used as a successful marketing tools: decorated tin boxes and cigarette cards praised, or should we say puffed up, the cigarettes from Egyptian or Turkish origin.

63The deviant connotations of smoking, however, were adapted by females that communicated their strong character, and soon also their less known western sisters were allowed to smoke. Its reference to seductiveness remained linked to the east, be it in a toned down way, until the time when the anti-smoke lobby finally changed the meaning of smoking. But the cigarette was not the only possible way to communicate the seductiveness: now projected onto the queens Cleopatra and Nefertiti, they became a standard bearer to convince the tourist to visit Egypt.

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Notes

1 He made his first trip with writer Emile Augier (1820-1889), sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) and the painters Léon-Charles-Adrian Bailly (1826) and Narcisse Berchère (1819-1891). Gérôme visited Egypt again in 1862, 1868, 1869, 1874 and 1880.

2 The Scottish artist David Wilkie (1785-1841) even refused to paint Europeans during his tour of 1840-41, unless in Turkish or Arab costume: (Thornton, 1994, 14).

3 The contemporary critics Ernest Chesneau, Marius Chaumelin, Théophile Thoré-Bürger and Léon Lagrange.

4 Gérôme based this “racial theories” on Arthur de Goubineau’s “Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races” (1853-55). The authors interpret Gérômes painting “Slavemarket” (1867) as an illustration of the indifference to human life. The Arabs belonged to the “black race”, and were characterized as “violent, capricious and possessed of ‘an intensity of desire”.

5 Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu is the best known example when she shared the public bath in Adrianople with local women in 1717.

6 References like these can be read in magazines, like The New-York Mirror, Vol. 9 (1831), 206.

7 Iconographically seen this use is similar to the arabesque shaped mist coming from an incense burner, and later played out by Alphonse Mucha’s (1860-1939) advertisements, especially for the cigarette paper “Job”.

8 As Delacroix describes the inhabitants of Tangiers in a letter from 1832: ‘les Romains et les Grecs sont là à ma porte’ (Delacroix, 1935: vol.1, 329–30).

9 To keep their soldiers healthy. With almost 2500 casualties of venereal diseases it was not that successful.

10 Lawrence Alma-Tadema, (1836-1912), “The meeting of Anthony and Cleopatra: 41 BC (Opus CCXLVI),” oil on panel, 65,5 x 91,4 cm. Lot 65, Sotheby’s New York, 2011.

11 Thanks for the information: Annelen Ottermann, Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek Mainz.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Frank Seaman Agency, Fatima Cigarettes, printed advertisement in magazines like Town and Country (1917-19)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Figure 2. Jean-Léon Gérôme, “Veiled Circassian Lady” circa 1876, oil on canvas, lot 42 at Christies Sale 7587, 2008.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Figure 3. Carl Ludvig Emil Jensen, “Kvinde-emancipation” (Emancipation of the female), circa 1900, caricature, C. E. Jensen, Karikatur Album, Kopenhagen 1912.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Figure 4. “Alexandrie: Femme Arabe” ca. 1890, hand colored picture postcard.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure 5. Constantine Zangaki, “Femme arabe sour [sic] budet” ca. 1860-1890, Albumen print as a picture postcard.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Figure 6. Zangaki Brothers, “Egyptian lady” 1890-1900, picture postcard
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Figure 7. Zangaki Brothers, “Femme Egyptienne - Egyptian Woman” circa 1900, picture postcard.
Légende From viewing smokers to be seduced by a cigarette
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Titre Figure 8.Dimitrino & Co, “Cairo, Egypt”, ca. 1910, cigarette tinbox.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figure 9. Dimitrino & Co, “Cairo, Egypt”, ca. 1910, print.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Titre Figure 10. Dimitrino & Co, “Cigarettes Egyptiennes”, (after Alma Tadema’s “Cleopatra”) 1910s, cigarette tinbox
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 11. Georg Rehlender, “Egyptische Cigarretten, Kaiserlich-Königliche Tabak Regie”, ca. 1880. Cigarette tinbox.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 232k
Titre Figure 12. Georg Rehlender, “Vorwort” (detail) 1894.Frontispiece for: Allerlei Sinnbilder, 24 Tafeln Berlin: Nessling & Spielmeyer 1894.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure 13. U&O (Urbi et Orbi), “N’en rêver plus… allez-y!” 1960’s for Air France, black and white photocollage advert.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/docannexe/image/1842/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
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Référence électronique

Liesbeth Grotenhuis, « Smoking Hot: the Odalisque’s eroticizing Cigarette », Via [En ligne], 11-12 | 2017, mis en ligne le 14 mai 2018, consulté le 17 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/viatourism/1842 ; DOI : 10.4000/viatourism.1842

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Auteur

Liesbeth Grotenhuis

University of Groningen, Hanze University of applied sciences Groningen (the Netherlands)

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