IN ARAB DRESS
While observing the scenery and its inhabitants, several European artists were aware that they cut an odd figure in such surroundings, realising, with wry humour, that they too were the subjects of scrutiny. The Scottish artist David Roberts describes wearing “a straw hat, clocked … a little to one side … a cigar stuck in my mouth, a French blouse and the usual narrow coverings of the lower extremities which after a Turk’s yard wide ones must appear scanty enough." William Holman Hunt uncompromisingly wore western dress at first, ridiculing his friend Thomas Seddon’s attempts at adopting local costume, yet subsequently both Hunt and Roberts found it convenient to don some form of Oriental attire. Many years later Hunt posed for a photograph in which he re-enacted his experience of painting The Scapegoat, with a keffiyeh on his head and his qumbaz suspended from his easel. On their return, both artists, acutely aware of their public image, sat for portraits wearing Oriental costume, keen to stress their roles as artist-travellers in the East. Roberts in his portrait by fellow Scottish artist Robert Scott Lauder is presented in fancy dress turban and robes in a romantic memorial of his epic voyage; Hunt in his Self-portrait (1867–75) wears an authentic qumbaz and, grasping his palette, projects an image of a serious artist with a self-imposed mission.