Alfred Schüler ( 1858 – ? ), Pasha’s residence in Cairo
Oil on panel cm 22 x 33 signed, located “Cairo” and dated “88” ( 1888 ) lower left.
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The little town of Cairo, here taken by the Dutch painter Alfred Schuler in Eighties of 19th century, was subjected to deep changes during the reign of Pasha Muhammad Ali ( 1769 – 1849 ). After have stopped the insurrection of Egyptian Mamluks in 1805, Muhammad Ali crossed out every traces of their presence on the territory, included the left palaces and the administrative structures. On the other hand, he was promoter of a frenzied building activity which led him, after have rebuilt a lot of the city walls that marked the perimeter of the ancient city, to raise four new palaces: his royal residence in a northern enclosure, a court, a wide terrace and barracks for his army.
In the hearth of little town complex, Muhammad Ali makes his people raise a mosque in an Ottoman style in memory of his son Tusun: the work for the realization of the mosque lasted from 1828 to 1848. Schüler incorporates the new structures opened a forty-years before the date of realization of the painting, as the palace which occupies the center of the composition, in a context where the aspects linked to the anecdote aren’t lacking, as demonstrate the little figures – presumably merchant of fabric – situated in the foreground.
We haven’t a lot of data about Alfred Schüler: we know he was born in Germany in 1858 and he was active in the central Europe in the second half of the 19th century. No doubts this view of Cairo connects the painter to the artistic trend of Orientalist style, a formal interest addressed by the literature and artistic languages to the oriental culture and customs.
Recalled as a place of suggestive ruins, magnificent and exotic oddities, Orient lands reached a role of primary importance in the imaginary of European painters who, especially after Napoleonic campaigns in Egypt and Syria ( 1798– 99 ), started to visit the North African coasts: a voyage which presumably. as demonstrates by this suggestive view of Cairo and a portrait of an Arab man made in 1899, surely made, a bit more than thirty years old, the Dutch painter Schuler, too.