Scene in the Jewish Quarter of Constantine, 1851
Théodore Chassériau (French, 1819–1856)
Oil on canvas; 22 3/8 x 18 1/2 in. (56.8 x 47 cm)
Signed and dated (lower right): Thre_Chassériau 1851
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 1996 (1996.285)
Chassériau was the son of a French consul in Santo Domingo and a Creole woman. Exhibiting precocious talent as a child, he entered Ingres's atelier at the age of ten. His works were accepted at the Salon when he was seventeen, but his brilliant career ended with his death only twenty years later.
Chassériau's trip to Algeria in 1846 strengthened his predilection for Orientalist imagery. He wrote, "At Constantine, which is high up in some enormous mountains, one sees the Arab people and the Jewish people as they were at the very beginning of time." An 1846 sketch of this scene (Musée du Louvre, Paris) served as the basis for an elaborate watercolor, also of 1846 (private collection), destined for a presentation album. Although the watercolor included a third figure crouching at the right, Chassériau reverted to a simpler composition for the present version in oil.