The mystery of the ancient ceremony in Bridgman’s painting: “the Procession of the bull Anubis»:
Frederick Arthur Bridgman is one of the most popular orientalist painters. He created a canvas that takes the viewer back to the times of Ancient Egypt. What secrets of the Egyptian tradition is illuminated by his painting “the Procession of the sacred bull Anubis”?
Frederick Arthur Bridgman is known for his paintings on the theme of the East. At the age of five, he declared that he had decided to become an artist, and at sixteen he dropped out of school and began his career as an engraver for an American banknote company. However, this work soon bored Arthur, and in 1866 he went to Paris to study with the artist and sculptor Jean—Leon Jerome at the School of fine arts. In 1873, he went to North Africa.
The seller of oranges.
In Africa, Bridgeman worked for five years, creating hundreds of sketches and collecting artifacts and costumes. Bridgman painted the East and Africa with pomp, mystery, luxury, and, most importantly, realism. His images of exotic people and cultures fascinated Americans and Europeans throughout the 1880s. Later, Bridgman created many more Oriental paintings from memory, inspired by a large collection of purchased Egyptian and Algerian Souvenirs.
What allowed Bridgman to convey this region in such a naturalistic way in his paintings, down to the smallest detail, is the work from nature. In contrast to his colleagues, the artist was allowed to enter the homes and harems of the people with whom he met. While traveling through Algeria and Egypt, Bridgeman completed more than three hundred sketches and many photographs, depicting the world of richly decorated and luxuriously dressed veiled women using transparent effects. A huge collection of artifacts that he had acquired in his travels, including costumes, architecture, and art, decorated his home.
After some time, the artist felt the need to change the subject and tried to find himself in the genre of symbolism, and then, in the 1890s.turned to historical, biblical themes and ancient mythology (“Pharaoh crossing the Red sea” and “the Withdrawal of the Assyrian king”). In 1890, in new York, he published the book “Winter in Algeria”, which he illustrated with his paintings. These later works were not as successful as his Eastern paintings. After the First world war, his popularity declined sharply, and he moved from Paris to Lyon-La-Foret (Normandy, France), where he lived until the end of his days, without leaving painting.
“Procession of the sacred bull of Anubis” – analysis.
One of Bridgman’s paintings, “the Procession of the sacred bull Anubis”, will be discussed in more detail.
The painting belongs to the historical genre and has a reference to the ancient Egyptian tradition of the bull. Already in ancient times, people deified cattle-bulls and cows. William Tyler Olcott, in his book Myths of the sun, describes in detail the details and meaning of the Egyptian bull procession.
APIs — in Egyptian mythology, the God of fertility in the form of a bull with a solar disk (which we see on the head of the bull in the picture). APIs was associated with the cult of the dead and was considered the bull of Osiris (hence the name of the painting “bull Anubis”). The procession is led by priests, and cheering crowds accompany it. Palace employees carry a sculpture of Osiris himself.
On the day of the festival of Osiris, the priests brought the bull to the banks of the Nile and solemnly drowned it in the river Nile. Then they were embalmed and buried in Memphis. The mourning continued until there was another bull that resembled the previous one, with the same markings. “APIs appear at long intervals. Their appearances are marked by universal rejoicing. APIs is a calf from a cow, which at birth can never be pregnant (that is, it gives birth once). According to the Egyptians, a ray of light descends on the cow from the sky, and from it she gives birth to APIs. APIs is black, with a white triangular spot on the forehead, an image of an eagle on the back, double hair on the tail, and an image of a beetle under the tongue” [Herodotus, 3: 27-28
The symbolism of the bull is interesting: the black hair of the bull symbolized the scorching effect of the sun on the body, and the white spot on the animal’s forehead and the Crescent moon on its side — the symbol of the moon. The eagle and the beetle are symbols of the sun. An important role in the picture is played by the rhythm: the procession moves, we even hear people cheering, almost catch every wave of musical instruments in the hands of priestesses. The most prominent “spot” in the picture is, of course, the bull-the main character of the painting. The artist achieved this with the help of the darkest colors (if the main part of the picture is painted in light brown, brown tones, then the bull itself has a black coat, which emphasizes the attention). The priestess at the front of the procession looks directly at us, the audience, as if inviting us to participate in the bull festival. The light in the picture flows smoothly from left to right-in the direction of the procession itself, falls on columns with Egyptian patterns, illuminates the bull and the leading priests. Bright sunlight also allows us to see the paintings on the walls of the Palace. In General, the picture belongs to the orientalist genre, which is closely intertwined with historical and religious motives.
Thus, the significant and creatively rich contribution of Frederick Arthur Bridgeman to the art of the XIX century in General and to the coverage of Eastern art in particular is undeniable. And, given the rich collection of artifacts, John singer Sargent was right — one of the artist’s contemporaries , declared the Bridgeman residence one of the two places to visit in Paris after the Eiffel tower.