Description & Technical information

This drawing of a bashi-bazouk was drawn in 1854 at an Ottoman military camp in Silistria, a town on the banks of the Danube in what is today northeastern Bulgaria. A bashi-bazouk was an irregular soldier of the Ottoman army. Although usually of Albanian, Kurdish or Circassian origins, they could be of any ethnicity. During the early 1850s Théodore Valério was engaged on a series of studies of the various peoples of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. In 1854, the date of the present sheet, Silistria found itself on the front lines during the Crimean War; indeed, the Ottoman-ruled town was besieged by Russian forces between April and June of that year. 

This watercolour is closely related to, and may be a study for, an etching and drypoint, of somewhat smaller dimensions, entitled Bachi-Bozoucq de la haute Egypte (camp de Silistrie). The print was reproduced as Plate 2 in Valério’s album Les Populations des provinces danubiennes en 1854, published in Paris around 1855.

Date:  1854
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  Bulgaria, Silistria
Medium: Pastel on light brown paper., Watercolour, pen, brown ink, traces of a pencil underdrawing
Signature: Signed and dated VALERIO 1854 SILISTRIA at the lower right.
Stamped with the Valerio vente stamp (Lugt 2476) at the lower left.
Inscribed and numbered Le negre [?] / 02886500 on a label pasted onto the old backing board.

Dimensions: 45.3 x 27.7 cm (17⁷/₈ x 10⁷/₈ inches)
Provenance: Among the contents of the artist’s studio at the time of his death
The Valério studio sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 12-14 February 1880 (lot number unidentified, possibly lot 74: ‘Soldat nègre de la Haute-Egypte (Siège de Silistrie)’).