An Egyptian Fellah Woman with her Baby

Danish National Gallery

Baumann was a rare artist in her own day. Partly because she was a woman, but also because of her unusual openness towards the exotic and the unknown. This painting is an excellent example of Baumann’s keen sense for the erotic and the sensuous. This painting of an Egyptian farm worker is among the most striking of Jerichau Baumann’s oriental scenes. The nudity beneath the sheer silk fabric, the exotic jewellery, the reddening evening sky, and the dark colours all infuse it with a sensuous quality that must have had a strong impact in the 1870s, a time when the body was still viewed with suspicion. Indeed, Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann occupies a unique position within Danish post-1850 art in more ways than one. Hailing from a Polish-German background, she had a wider horizon than most Danish artists, who would primarily strive to identify and cultivate the uniquely Danish. She had an openness to all things foreign and exotic that was rarely seen in Denmark at the time; her only real match in that regard would be Hans Christian Andersen. The wanderlust of an artist took her to Turkey, Greece, and Egypt (1869–70 and 1874–75), furnishing her with a rich fount of oriental motifs.

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