In this week's Product Focus, we explore one of our most popular silk pocket squares, our Prayer in Cairo square, created by the French painter and sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme.
In the painting, Gérôme depicted the evening prayer, or maghrib, on a housetop, in the Egyptian Capital. Below, we explore more detail behind the artwork and Gérôme himself, alongside five places to visit when travelling to the beautiful city of Cairo.
Did You Know? Between 1864 and 1904, more than 2,000 students received at least some of their art education through Gérôme's atelier at the École des Beaux-Arts.
SHOP THE COLLECTION: PRAYER IN CAIRO SILK POCKET SQUARE
ABOUT THE PAINTING
In this painting, as the title suggests, Gérôme depicted the evening prayer, or maghrib, on a housetop within Cairo. We can see a group of males portrayed across different poses and prayer positions, such as sitting or kneeling. The sunset is shown in the distance, offering a beautiful backdrop to the painting and accentuating the colours of the males' clothes and prayer mats.
Gérôme realised this painting after visiting Egypt several times between 1858 and 1868. This painting is part of a more comprehensive series depicting Muslim religious practices, which are now considered some of his most famous art. The skyline, visible in the back, is very distinctive and helps to identify Cairo. As unique as it is, though, it's actually far from true, as some buildings represented are actually miles outside the city.
The direction of the waning light suggests that the men are facing east, towards Mecca. These men are similar to those depicted in Prayer in the Mosque, and Gérome may have represented the same people, as some could be seen wearing the same clothes in several of his paintings.
Prayer in the Mosque
A similar painting to the one depicted in Cairo, Gérôme painted this scene, which depicts the interior of the seventh-century mosque of ‘Amr in Cairo, after his visit to Egypt in 1868. The rows of worshipers, ranging from the dignitary and his attendants to the loincloth-clad Muslim holy man, face Mecca during one of the five daily prayers.
BEHIND THE ARTIST
Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as academicism. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits, and other subjects, bringing the Academic painting tradition to an artistic climax. He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period. He was also a teacher with a long list of students.
Gérôme's teaching highlight was being appointed as one of the three professors at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he started with only sixteen students. As one can imagine, places in Gérôme's atelier were limited, keenly sought and highly competitive.
Photograph of French painter and sculptor, Jean-Léon Gérome (Image Source)
In his fifties, Gérôme took up a new passion within sculpture. His first work was a large bronze statue of a gladiator resting his foot on his victim, based on the iconic Pollice Verso and first shown to the public at the Universal Exhibition of 1878 in Paris.
After Gérôme's death, in 1909, his son-in-law Aimé Morot created Gérôme Sculpting "The Gladiators": Monument to Gérôme, which comprised a new casting of Gérôme's statue along with Morot's portrait sculpture of Gérôme at work. Morot's sculpture resides in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Gérôme and Orientalism
In 1856, Gérôme visited Egypt for the first time. His itinerary followed the classic Grand Tour of the Near East, up the Nile to Cairo, across to Faiyum, then further up the Nile to Abu Simbel. This trip heralded the start of many Orientalist paintings depicting Arab religious practice, genre scenes and North African landscapes.
In the 1860s Gérôme began a series of paintings depicting Muslim men at prayer, such as Prayer in Cairo. These would become a signature theme of the artist's, and among his most popular Orientalist works. Subsequent trips to the region made during the 1860s and 1870s expanded his repertoire of subjects, confirming his talents as an ethnographer and his reputation as a privileged witness to all aspects of Middle Eastern life.
5 PLACES TO VISIT WHILST IN CAIRO
1. Pyramids of Giza
Probably at the top of most people's visit list is The Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the largest Egyptian pyramid and tomb of Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khufu. Built in the 26th century BC during a period of around 27 years, it is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain largely intact.
Perfect for viewing and seeing the whole city, the Citadel was built on top of a hill during the 12th century by Saladin, the ruler of the city, to protect it from Crusader attacks. There are several Cairo points of interest located within the walls of the Citadel, including three mosques, the Egyptian Military Museum with a display of fighter planes outside, the Police Museum and Al-Gawhara Palace.
3. Coptic Cairo
Coptic Cairo is the ideal place for a relaxed, historical and quiet setting within the capital and is a complete contrast to the chaos of Downtown Cairo. The district is the oldest part of Cairo, inhabited continuously since the 6th century BC, and it remains the stronghold of Christianity in Egypt to this day. It's a peaceful and tranquil place, with no traffic and minimal noise, perfect for exploring around on foot.
Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Due to open November 2022. (Image Source)
4. Grand Egyptian Museum (From Nov 2022)
Ten years in the making, the Grand Egyptian Museum will open later this year. When it is completed, the Grand Egyptian Museum just outside of Cairo on the Giza Plateau (and next door to the Pyramids) will not only be the new crown jewel of Egypt, but it will also be one of the largest, most modern, and most renowned museums in the entire world.
5. Al-Azhar Park
Another fantastic place to escape the traffic and crowds of the city is Al-Azhar Park, not far from the Citadel. Approximately a 20-minute walk from the city centre, there are landscaped gardens, water features and flower beds. The idea behind the parks is based on an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of ancient Islamic gardens.
WHY THIS POCKET SQUARE WORKS PERFECTLY WITH A NAVY JACKET
Navy is the most versatile colour when it comes to menswear tailoring, and it complements a variety of colours from yellow to grey, to even brighter colours such as green and pink. However, there is no better combination than the classic and timeless red and navy suit.
The example colour combination below of deep red and burgundy harmonises beautifully with any navy jacket. In addition, you can add more contrast to the outfit showing more of the lighter hues within the pocket square.
The Prayer of Cairo Pocket Square is complementary in colours, with reds, orange and navy hues present against a bright backdrop of the evening sky. This means your pocket square folds will feature elements of these colours, working perfectly with a red tie and navy jacket combination.
As one of the most classic and often used combinations, you will never look out of place when pairing navy with a crimson red or burgundy. We also love the hint of texture that you get with a wool-cashmere tie.
In the below video, as part of our YouTube Style Series, Alex explores this pairing, alongside other classic colour combinations to wear with a your navy jacket.