Orientalists and bellydancers: Louis-François Cassas
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Orientalists and bellydancers

Louis-François Cassas


Cassas on expedition The French artist Louis-François Cassas arrived in 1784 in Constantinople as a member of the retinue of the French ambassador to the Ottoman court and was able to travel extensively through the various provinces of the Ottoman empire.
Here on display are some of the drawings Cassas made during two visits to Egypt (Cairo and Alexandria) in 1785. The first one is a self portrait and the second one an observation of ghawazee dancers on the Nile. The ghawazee were also nicknamed 'the invaders of the heart' as they had a fatal attraction on their male admirers. Untill that time bare breasts were not seen as indecent in the middle east. The gazing of the occidental visitors changed all that.

Cassas accompanied the french ambassador Choiseul-Gouffier on his mission to Constantinople in 1784 but remained there only a few weeks. From the end of 1784 to 1787 he travelled to Egypt and Syria at Choiseul-Gouffier's expense. The drawings he made there include studies of costumes, architectural pieces, monuments, views, processions, scenes from daily life and animals. While he was in Egypt Cassas drew the antiquities of Alexandria, the pyramids of Giza, and the mosques of Cairo. In Syria, Cassas made numerous drawings of Palmyra and in Lebanon he produced another series illustrating Baalbec.
Louis-François Cassas, danseuses au bord du Nil The Compte (Count) de Choiseul-Gouffier (1784-92) worked to strengthen the Franco-Ottoman relationship, and commissioned pictures of the city of Istanbul. France remained the Ottoman Empire's most dedicated ally and the Sultan decorated his Topkapi palace accordingly. Some of his wives had to adapt the french look and french manners to please the Pacha. An example of this is illustrated in the work of Thomas Allom, also on display in the Belly dance museum
Louis-Francois Cassas lived and worked at the French embassy during the years 1784 and 1786. He produced one of the most beautiful eighteenth century illustrated books on the Middle East.

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