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"Afternoon Lesson"


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January 24, 2020, 12:04:51 am Heba E. Husseyn: Do please read our blog entry @ Zainab's Lounge titled Murder of Qassem Soleimani and comrades.
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Ruhi_Rose
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« on: December 12, 2019, 09:40:40 pm »




Salams dear all ..  Smiley



From Sothebys to MV pinterest board
  

I found this wonderful painting uploaded by Sister Zeynab at one of the MV pinterest boards.  Like it very much, didn't view it before.  Caption says  "Afternoon Lesson:  by Ettore Simonetti 1857-1909 watercolor."   But couldn't find any description to speak a bit on it.  Any information, sis?

I was debating whether to post it here or at the Coffee Table board.  Assuming that someone will give a bit of historical introduction, I thought of putting it up here.


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Zeynab
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« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2019, 03:45:19 pm »




Thanks for viewing this Sister Ruhi.  You did well by posting it at our Writing Board.

I had given a brief description in one of our Pinterest boards, Islamic History Illustrated - the Golden Age - day-to-day life in the golden era.  But unfortunately Pinterest is going through an upgrade process and nearly all the image descriptions I had drafted with much research and care have been pulled down.  A few descriptions might still show up randomly, but most are gone Sad   But InshAllah, I hope they will be restored in future.

Talking of the background settings as well as the event .. ..

This watercolor painting illustrates one of the prettiest non-fancy middle age room decors ever.  Window architecture with that geometrical woodwork pattern and the broad sill is remarkable, absolutely grand.   So are the simple and neat furnishing and wall tiles, though the couch looks too high to be in conformity with Middle Eastern style of furniture.   Also the teacher placing some of his books on the floor, coming in with his shoes instead of leaving them at the door, and the casual posture of the ladies at such an occasion are not culturally authentic.  

It's basically about home schooling very common in Muslim households back in the middle ages.  Home tutoring in addition to attending schools was no rarity among many cultures in the past eras for boys.  But what makes the culture conveyed in this piece of art quite special is its allusion to the predominant practice of female home schooling in average as well as upper class Muslim homes.  This indeed was rampant in the Middle East but comparatively a rarity back then in Europe, South Asia and the Far East. 

In a nutshell, the idea is truthfully historical but the style of portrayal needs to be corrected just a bit. 

Modern Western history books and websites on medieval Middle Eastern women, their culture trend and their choices aren't substantially documented.  This includes the works of many 'Muslim' authors as well who are fed with the same fodder as their counterparts in the Western academia.  To a large extent, myths and figments of the minds of oriental historians, social scientists and artists - deeply influenced by the contents and style of the Arabian Nights tales - didn't do too good a job separating facts from folklore.  Women were depicted in three basic categories:

-  The homemaker wife, never seen nor heard of.

-  The ravishing amorous ladylove who met and stole the heart of some eligible prince in a passionate setting.   This category is often overly focused on a relatively small segment of old time Arabic literature (poems and stories) with a socially sexist approach and themes lingering around female sexuality. 

-   Lastly, the most notoriously creative legend, the "harem," supposedly filled with half naked slave women huddled together in some fanciful part of a wealthy household like dogs in a kennel to serve the mood-swing carnal desires of the menfolk.   One of the shittiest spoofs ever in the field of laid-back history!

The prime reason for such black & white depictions arose from the fact that medieval Muslim households culturally adhered to unwavering privacy rules for both men and women.   Some chroniclers and practitioners of art such as portraitists, watercolorists, landscapists etc. who travelled to the Middle East and acquired information of household cultures and lifestyles based on hearsay from friends, colleagues and fellow travellers reproduced their conceptual thoughts in the form of writings and illustrations.  Either through words or images, these concepts leaned much toward exaggerations and purple-proses.    The perspective started as a typical ahistorical nostalgia that misunderstood cultural history and later developed into a permanent stereotype.  Sadly, the stereotype remains until the present even in scholastic circles.  "Tenets of the Islamic faith" is persistently viewed as a reason for the lack of information on private lives of Muslim women which foreigners had a difficult time gathering.  Furthermore, this baseless presumption is interpreted as a 'negative implication on the lives of medieval Muslim women.'    In reality, quite the opposite honestly.   Literacy rate and the quest for productive education even among the wealthy Middle Eastern Muslim women has undoubtedly dipped in the modern era owing to distractions from oil wealth interfering with cultural priorities and of course the rise of Wahabism, the single biggest enemy of the era of Islamic Renaissance.  In the middle ages when both these negative aspects were absent, plenty of Muslim women of the region were tirelessly on the forefront.  One such example out of many is that of Fatima al-Fihri in a lengthy stretch of history when Western women were barred from higher education, even basic home schooling was uncommon within the middle class. 


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Ruhi_Rose
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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2019, 09:13:58 pm »



Many thanks Sis.  Very interesting information and so well perceived. 

I took a second look at MV Pinterest Boards, and yes, descriptions aren't visible.  InshAllah, I hope that's restored after the upgrade is complete otherwise will need to send Pinterest a feedback telling them about it.


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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2019, 10:53:14 pm »





This watercolor painting illustrates one of the prettiest non-fancy middle age room decors ever.  Window architecture with that geometrical woodwork pattern and the broad sill is remarkable, absolutely grand.   So are the simple and neat furnishing and wall tiles, though the couch looks too high to be in conformity with Middle Eastern style of furniture.   Also the teacher placing some of his books on the floor, coming in with his shoes instead of leaving them at the door, and the casual posture of the ladies at such an occasion are not culturally authentic.    

In a nutshell, the idea is truthfully historical but the style of portrayal needs to be corrected just a bit. 

 

Agree completely.  Though a very nice image to view, there are some cultural flaws.  I also don't recognize such tall sofas ever being in traditional use in the northern Middle East.  Moreover, the cover of the sofa seat is an extension of the carpet spread on the floor.  This is unusual.  Never seen this nor heard of in any household, present or past.

Your summary on women's home schooling culture is very interesting and unarguably correct.    Home tutoring was especially common for Muslim women at that time.  Boys studied in the mdrassahs often attached to the masjids.  Though women visited masjids regularly, their education was generally at home.  This image seems more like relaxed learning, as a pastime, than serious tuition. 

From the outfit of the ladies, seems this image is most likely a portrayal of Algerian homelife.

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« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2019, 11:09:47 pm »


Hummm ....   They didn't have cameras in those days, so they couldn't click an image and then work to paint it as artists do nowadays.  They couldn't even watch any such scenario and recall it later for reproduction with their paint brushes as no artist would be allowed to enter a home and paint the recreational time spent by members of a household (that too women).   As sister said, they simply heard stories of contemporary cultures and utilized their imagination, trusting their memories for reproduction on canvas.  Many times they didn't get it completely right.  Often the image in the mind was produced on canvas after they returned to Europe and got confused between cultures of different regions.


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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2019, 11:13:37 pm »



Yes, exactly.
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« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2019, 11:16:20 pm »



Reminds me to ask after you mentioned the Algerian looking outfit of the ladies, was Tunisia ever a part of Algeria in the past?
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2019, 11:41:26 pm »



Not at all.  Somewhat the opposite rather.  In 1286 Tunis became an absolute sovereignty under Abu-Feraz (emir of Tunis).   He was a very triumphant leader whose successors established a very efficient government in Tunisia that lasted for 3 centuries.  They added the greater part of Algiers and Tripoli, a very important province of Libya.   And it was the successors of Feraz's government who later played an instrumental role in intercepting and preventing several Christian fleets in the Mediterranean from reaching Palestine.  These Christian fleets wanted to cross the Mediterranean to assist the destructive Christian crusaders in the Holy Land and its neighboring areas. 

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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2019, 11:43:53 pm »



Oh, I see.   How interesting.  Islamic History is mesmerizing!    And when did Islam enter Tunisia?
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2019, 11:46:09 pm »



Islam came to Tunisia in the 7th century, approximately 670 AD.  Around the same time as Morocco, followed by Algeria just a bit later between 7th and 8th centuries.  These were some of the earliest countries to welcome Islam ..... .. much before Egypt and Turkey.  Egypt embraced the Islamic Faith shortly after the 10th century and the Turks became Muslims in the 11th century. 
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« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2019, 12:00:13 am »



Thanks dear brother.  I'm learning some very essential stuff.
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« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2019, 12:03:14 am »



Mash'Allah.  Very absorbing points on Tunisian and its regional history. 

You're right.   Clothing of the women in this art looks Algerian.
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« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2019, 10:34:32 pm »



Mash'Allah .... wow!   Very sweet piece of art;  also a very gripping and concise elucidation on Muslim females' home schooling in Middle-Eastern medieval times .......  

though I too concur with the cultural inconsistencies in the painting you folks pointed out.  

Teacher coming in with those big shoes; putting books on the floor which apparently proves as brother hinted, it's a casual educational lesson in a storytelling atmosphere.  Those books must be of prose or poems.  Certainly not even the man-written articles on the Islamic Faith otherwise he would never put them on the floor.  And of course NO question about any Muslim handling the Noble Quran like that, Nauzbillah again and again.  No need to even to mention it.  In western countries they just don't know nor understand such an aspect and thus the obvious oversight by Ettore Simonetti.   

Yeah, very high couch, about the height of a treasure chest, ha?   The lady in the image with one foot dangling doesn't look too comfortable in that elevated and narrow seating.   Middle Eastern sitting spaces are actually very low, those comfy Middle-Eastern floor sofas in modern times replacing the cushion seating and cushion headrest against the wall in medieval times. 
 
But otherwise, I really like this painting and the realistically intellectual idea it portrays. 


 
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« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2019, 10:53:57 pm »



Very correctly commented Sister Heba.




  

Yeah, very high couch, about the height of a treasure chest, ha? 
 

Exactly, you said it!  Smiley    I had been wondering this couch resembled something else but wasn't able to figure our what.  Then I remembered my parents often talking about 'treasure trunk' - big, tall wooden box with locks where families in earlier times securely placed their household valuables.  They would often put a cotton mattress over it and then drape it with velvet or silk covers and cushions to serve as (higher than usual) sitting spaces.   That's precisely what it looks to be in this image.

 
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« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2019, 11:06:57 pm »



Very, very important point expounded about the books placed on the floor, Sister Heba. 


Talking of the treasure chest (or trunk), right on ... well perceived.  Thanks sister and brother.  Treasure chests were often turned into makeshift sitting spaces.  Here is an artwork by another artist, by Ludwig Deutsch, captioned "Treasure Chest" I saved at our Pin board.   Though several treasure chests used to be much bigger.   




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