The Wallace Collection

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The Arabian Nights
  • Richard Parkes Bonington (1802 - 1828)
  • The Arabian Nights
  • France
  • 1825
  • Painting
  • Watercolour and bodycolour with gum varnish on paper
  • Image size: 24 x 18.6 cm
  • Signature: 'R P Bonington 1825'
  • P657
  • Not on display
Further Reading
  • 'The Arabian Nights' (or 'The Thousand and One Nights') is a collection of stories written in Arabic which was first made known in Europe by a French translation published early in the eighteenth century. The present title was on the old mount and may be incorrect, though at least two paintings by Bonington from this source are recorded in early sales. If the subject is from 'The Arabian Nights' (and is not simply an Oriental genre scene) the figures may be the King, his wife Shahrazad and her sister Dunyazid. Shahrazad told the King a story every night in order to avoid the fate of his other wives who had all been put to death. Alternatively, the sisters may be shown with their father, the Vizier. Bonington’s interest in Orientalism was shared by many members of his circle, including Delacroix and Jules-Robert Auguste who had a fine collection of Oriental costumes. This is one of Bonington’s earliest figure compositions and is notably weak in handling. The female figures are derived from Persian miniatures in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, which were copied by Delacroix.