'The Grand Turk giving a Concert to his Mistress' by Carle van Loo, 1737, cat. P451
Carle (Charles-André) van Loo (1705-1765) was the most famous member of a family of artists who emigrated to France from the Netherlands. Carle’s career was brilliant and international, after a study trip to Rome he settled in Turin in 1732 where he married the opera singer Christina Antonia Somis. In 1734 he returned to Paris and became member of the Academy in 1735. He was appointed First Painter to the French King in 1762 and one year later Director of the Academy. Contemporaries considered van Loo the greatest European painter of the time.
The painting in the Wallace Collection is an early work which van Loo painted in 1737 shortly after his return to Paris, at a time when he was receiving the first commissions from Louis XV. The painter stages an ‘Oriental’ scene which is in reality a European chamber concert in an imagined oriental guise. The female singer in the painting is a portrait of van Loo’s wife who is singing a famous aria from Handel’s Admeto which can be identified on her music sheet.
While Far Eastern subjects had long been common in European art, subjects with a Turkish inspiration became particularly popular in the 1730s. Van Loo’s painting is a brilliant example of this new, intense interest in Orientalist ‘Turkish’ subjects.
In the same year, van Loo also painted ‘The Grand Turk Having his Mistress Painted’ (Fig.2). Both paintings were exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1737 and are sometimes called pendants but they are neither of the same dimensions nor were they ever in the same collection. It is more likely that van Loo painted two independent works in a ‘Turkish’ style. Both paintings have illustrious previous owners. The painting in the Wallace Collection was once in the collections of Frederick the Great of Prussia and the Polish King Stanislas, the painting in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was owned by the great French collector Jean de Jullienne and by Empress Josephine.
© Trustees of the Wallace Collection 2010.
Text by Christoph Vogtherr.
Christoph Vogtherr will discuss this painting on Tuesday 5 and Thursday 21 January at 1 pm.
- Marie Catherine Sahut, ‘Carle Vanloo. Premier peintre du roi (Nice, 1705 – Paris, 1765)’, exhibition catalogue Nice, Clermont-Ferrand, Nancy, 1977.
- Peter Hughes, ‘Eighteenth-Century France and the East’, London: The Wallace Collection, 1981.