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Modernism on the NileArt in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary$
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Alex Dika Seggerman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653044

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653044.001.0001

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Lawyerly Luxury of Easel Painting

Lawyerly Luxury of Easel Painting

Mahmoud Said

(p.101) Chapter 3 Lawyerly Luxury of Easel Painting
Modernism on the Nile

Alex Dika Seggerman

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter shifts focus from Cairo to Alexandria, away from the anticolonial nationalism of the former toward a deliberate cosmopolitanism observable in the latter. From the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1805 until Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rise in 1952, Alexandria was a veritable second capital to Cairo, and in many ways it was better connected with the Mediterranean world. The informal infrastructure of arts education and exhibition in Alexandria led to a subtler form of Egyptian modernism. Alexandrian artists visualized the multinational atmosphere of their coastal city rather than portraying an outward Egyptian nationalism. In the vibrant oil paintings of the aristocratic lawyer Mahmoud Said (1897–1966), I locate a visual code that echoes the transnationalism of the Mixed Courts, Said’s employer and a pioneering legal institution that adjudicated contracts between the international business communities in Alexandria. I employ this comparison to argue that late Ottoman representations of race repurpose Orientalist idioms to position the author as superior to both colonial powers and local subjects. Through this repurposing, Said visualizes multiple Mediterranean image traditions implicit in Egyptian modernism.

Keywords:   Mahmoud Said, Mixed Courts, oil painting, Alexandria, Egypt, cosmopolitanism, Mediterranean, race, colonialism, Gamal Abdel Nasser

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