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Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Allegory of the Continent of Asia

Key facts
Full title Allegory of the Continent of Asia
Artist Franz Anton Maulbertsch
Artist dates 1724 - 1796
Date made about 1750
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 43 × 48 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 2013
Inventory number NG6647
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Allegory of the Continent of Asia
Franz Anton Maulbertsch

Maulbertsch here portrays the Orient – the countries of the East – in the form of an allegory (when figures or objects are used to signify abstract concepts or a moral meaning). A turbaned woman holds a pole topped with a crescent moon and star, symbols of the powerful Ottoman Empire. She is accompanied by a man who also wears a white turban, and a magnificent white-golden coat. Figures with a camel appear in the darkness on the left, while on the right a crouching man pours coffee. Above, Venus, holding a flaming torch, represents the morning star – another reference to the Orient.

Such representations were common in eighteenth-century depictions of the four continents – Asia, Europe, America, and Africa. This picture may have been part of a series, though no related works are known. Despite the spontaneity in Maulbertsch’s dazzling brushwork, this oil sketch is probably a finished work painted around 1750.

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