This painting is by William Chase. The figure is posing amongst carefully arranged studio props. This is probably the painting that Chase was completing in Venice for a German client immediately before he returned to the United States. One of the most ambitious undertakings of his early career, The Moorish Warrior demonstrates Chase's desire to participate in the international trend for exotic subjects. In all likelihood, the scimitar being examined belonged to the artist.
Aside from the smoldering cigar found in "The Moorish Warrior," did William Merritt Chase have other signature props to signal his presence in his works?
Great question! Usually Chase "backs up" more and allows much more of his studio to be seen. He didn't have other signature props. If I had to say, the stark white wall in the rear and the floor indicate that this isn't "on location." There's also an over abundance of the "Oriental" props, too many to be understood as a real space. The bowls, the sword, the teapot, and the placement of the slipper all point towards a less than realistic locale.
What pops out to you?
It does seem very staged, but many artists do err on the side of "overdoing it" for the sake of visceral reaction as opposed to creating a more "accurate" depiction that may lack the punch needed to connect to a viewer. The cigar (while perhaps a little hard to identify, without the label) definitely indicates all is not as it seems in this piece. I'm interested to see some of his other works that more clearly depict the deliberate staging and framing of his subject.
I like your thoughtfulness. I wish we had more works by Chase on view to illustrate this, but unfortunately the only other on view (a portrait on the first floor) doesn't quite do that. We do have a William Glackens on view, titled "Girl with Apple," that really depicts the reality of painting within a studio.
Tell me more!
Here we have William Merritt Chase's great "Moorish Warrior." It is an ambitious undertaking from his early career, and reflects a contemporary American interest in "exotic" subjects, often scenes from the Middle East. However, although Chase provides great detail in this depiction of a black man in a luxurious domestic interior examining a sword blade, he did not paint it in the Middle East, since he never traveled to the area himself! It is an artificially staged scene painted in the artist's studio in Venice, Italy. Don't you just love the way Chase painted the fabric finishes?
Why is the guy looking at his knife?
In this painting, Chase is attempting to construct a scene that someone might have seen when traveling to the Middle East during the late nineteenth century. However, Chase never actually traveled to the region and instead created this scene using props in his studio. At the time, the depiction of the "exotic" was very popular with international, Western art patrons. As for the knife, I think the warrior's downward gaze makes us feel that we're watching him without him knowing it!
Why is this painting special?
That painting is by an important American painter: William Merritt Chase. It demonstrates the cultural intersections that shaped the work of American artists in the post-Civil War era.
This was one of the most ambitious undertakings of Chase's early career. "The Moorish Warrior" demonstrates his desire to participate in the international trend for "exotic" subjects. However, all likelihood, the sword being examined by the warrior was just a prop that belonged to the artist.
Chase never actually traveled to the Middle East. He probably purchased the props in Venice and painted his work in his Venice studio ...for a German client!
Tell me more about this.
The painter William Chase has posed his model in the studio surrounded by props. In America and Europe, there was a major trend in painting (and furniture design) for exotic subjects. This large canvas was painted for a German client.
I like the way that the light is catching all of the metalwork and textiles in the scene. Chase was really able to show off his technical abilities in painting all these materials and details.
We really like this piece. Can you tell us any fun facts about it?
Sure! My favorite "fun fact" about this painting is that the man you see is someone Chase met on the street in Venice and asked to model for him.
You may have read in the label that exotic art from the East was extremely popular at the time and Chase was playing right into it. The place he's sitting was a "Moorish Nook" he set up in his studio in Venice.
Isn't it! I like to imagine that he is just mesmerized by the sword that was just placed in his hands as we are.
The white wall on the right of the scene also reminds us that this is a completely staged vignette in the artist's studio. Everything you see, Chase most likely picked up in a market in Venice.
Dime mas sobre esto.
Uno de los emprendimientos más ambiciosos de su carrera inicial, The Moorish Warrior, demuestra el deseo de Chase de participar en la tendencia internacional de temas exóticos. Con toda probabilidad, la espada examinada pertenecía al artista.
Chase nunca viajó a Medio Oriente. Este trabajo fue pintado en Venecia, donde encontró su modelo y compró los accesorios.