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The Slave Market, Constantinople

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The Slave Market, Constantinople Dated 1838

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
First exhibited in London in 1838, the year of Allan’s election as President of the Royal Scottish Academy, this complex and ambitious picture confirmed the artist’s status as a pioneer of British Orientalist painting. In 1829-30 Allan had travelled to Constantinople with the ambassadors who concluded the treaty which ended the struggle for Greek independence from Turkish domination. In the central group of the painting, which was supposedly based on Allan’s direct experience, an Egyptian slave-merchant is shown selling a Greek girl to a Turkish Pasha on horseback. The melodrama of the scene with the girl being torn form her distraught family contrasts with the relaxed group of men about to be served tea. Allan brought back many Turkish items which he used when composing this picture.

Glossary Open


Orientalism in western art is the study and depiction of Near-Eastern societies, cultures, and peoples. It can also refer to the imitation of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists. Interest in the Orient flourished in the nineteenth century, and attracted painters from across Europe. This was partly aided by Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, which had opened up the area and provided greater opportunities for travel. The Near East provided a rich array of subject matter for artists and was generally viewed as exotic; it allowed them to depict erotic scenes such as harems, but also led to a review of how biblical scenes were depicted. More artists began to interpret biblical stories with regard to their original setting.

Royal Scottish Academy

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) was formed in Edinburgh in 1826 by Scottish artists who felt alienated by what they perceived as the elitism of the Royal Institution and its management of contemporary art exhibitions. In 1835, the RSA secured exhibition rights in the Royal Institution building, which had been erected on The Mound by the Board of Manufactures in 1826. The RSA and the Board frequently argued over responsibilities for advanced art education. From 1859, the RSA shared the premises of the new National Gallery of Scotland under the Board’s custody. In 1910, after transferring most of its art collections to the Gallery, the RSA gained exclusive tenancy of the former Royal Institution building, where it continues to hold large-scale annual exhibitions.

Orientalism, Royal Scottish Academy


  • Acc. No. NG 2400
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size 129.00 x 198.00 cm (framed 144.10 x 211.40 x 7.50 cm)
  • Credit Purchased 1980