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“Almina Daughter of Asher Wertheimer” by John Singer Sargent

"Almina Daughter of Asher Wertheimer" by John Singer Sargent

“Almina Daughter of Asher Wertheimer” by John Singer Sargent

“Almina Daughter of Asher Wertheimer” by John Singer Sargent depicts a woman in an oriental costume of a white Persian dress and a turban entwined with pearls.

She is posing strumming an Indian tambura, accouterments all meant to convey sensuality and mystery. Sargent used this portrait to explore issues of sexuality and identity.

This Orientalist fashion of the period included wearing loose, flowing gowns belts with ornately embroidered cloth bands and ermine-trimmed robes with tasseled turbans.

Fashionable women abandoned confining clothes and corsets for much more freeing material and attached strings of pearls to their hair.

The loose clothing and the unorthodox styles added to the lewd perceptions of the Ottomans. Artists were inspired by this fashion that included bright colors and sharp contrasts, suggesting their exotic nature.

Paintings of European women cast as alluring ‘orientals’ were fashionable at the turn of the twentieth century.

Almina was Asher Wertheimer’s fifth daughter, and this painting was the last in the series of Sargent’s portraits for the Wertheimer family. The series was Sargent’s largest private commission.

The Wertheimer portraits are a series of twelve portrait paintings made by John Singer Sargent for the British art dealer Asher Wertheimer (1843-1918) and his family. 

Asher Wertheimer, Almina’s father, was born in London. His father, Samson, was born in Germany and became a leading art dealer in London, and Asher continued the business from premises on Bond Street after his father’s death. 

Asher married his wife Flora, the daughter of another London art dealer, in 1873. Of their twelve children, four sons and eight daughters, two daughters died in infancy. The family became familiar friends with John Singer Sargent.

Wertheimer commissioned Singer Sargent to paint two portraits to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary in 1898, and ten more commissions followed in the next decade. John Singer Sargent often dined at their home, which was decorated with eight of the family portraits.

The Wertheimer portraits reveal a pleasant familiarity between the artist and his subjects. Wertheimer bequeathed most of the paintings to the National Gallery.

Sargent’s portrait of Asher Wertheimer was a success when exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts. It was described in The Art Journal in 1911 as:

“The only modern picture which challenges the Doria Velázquez at Rome.”

Turquerie

Turquerie was the Orientalist fashion in Western Europe from the 16th century for imitating aspects of Ottoman culture. Many Western European countries were fascinated by Turkey’s exotic and relatively unknown culture, which was the center of the Ottoman Empire.

The West had a growing interest in Ottoman art. This fashionable phenomenon became more popular through trading and increased diplomatic relationships.

Social position was critical in the 18th century, so dress, posture, and props were carefully selected to communicate their status.

This need to express status mixed with a new interest in the Ottoman style made Turkish dress and decorations important social status props.

“Almina, Daughter of Asher Wertheimer” by John Singer Sargent

  • Title:                  Almina, Daughter of Asher Wertheimer
  • Artist:                John Singer Sargent
  • Year:                  1908
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 134 cm (52.7 ″); Width: 101 cm (39.7 ″)
  • Museum:          Tate Britain

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent is considered one of the leading portrait painters and is known for his evocations of his era’s luxury.

He created over 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, and many sketches and drawings. He also traveled extensively across Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. 

Many of John Singer Sargent portraits, which can be found in museums across the world, depict society’s leading lights and the opulence of their time.

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent

A Virtual Tour of Tate Britain

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John Singer Sargent: A collection of paintings

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“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.”
– John Singer Sargent

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Photo Credit: John Singer Sargent [Public domain]

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