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French, A Struggle in a Desert

Key facts
Full title A Struggle in a Desert
Artist French
Date made 19th century
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 34.3 × 22.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lady Lindsay, 1912
Inventory number NG2910
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Struggle in a Desert

An Arab man wearing a turban attacks a woman. The dagger in his raised right hand points down directly towards her and he clasps her waist with his left arm. Her head is thrown back and her throat is exposed as she raises her left arm to defend herself. Another man lies dead before her, his turban having fallen from his bald head.

This small unsigned picture probably dates from the early nineteenth century. We do not know who painted it, but it was previously credited to Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (1803–1860), who was a pioneer of Orientalist painting in France. These subjects were particularly popular in the 1830s, the decade in which France colonised Algeria and Eugène Delacroix completed several of his major Orientalist pictures. Decamps’s paintings are often characterised by dramatic action and striking contrasts of light and dark. However, this picture may be a copy of an earlier painting, possibly Italian.

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