Skip to main content



Orientalism is a fluid, complex, and contentious term. French in origin, it describes 19th-century paintings depicting North African and Middle Eastern scenes. Many of these paintings reflected French and more broadly Western stereotypes of the supposedly exotic inhabitants now under their colonial control. The emergence of the Orientalist genre is inextricably linked to propaganda relating to Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt at the turn of the 19th century and the later French colonisation of North Africa.