In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, “Porte de la Kasbah de Tanger.”
Throughout art history, many artists have found themselves greatly inspired and fascinated by the Orient. Whether it was the exotic animals, fabrics, and foods or the breathtaking landscapes and colors, some of the greatest works of art have been inspired by foreign cultures.
Nineteenth-century painter Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902) was an artist who specialized in Orientalism and has emerged from the annals of history as one of the subject’s greatest champions. Born in Paris in 1845, Benjamin-Constant began his formal artistic career in Toulouse, France, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1859 before a scholarship allowed him to travel back to Paris in 1866. However, the most pivotal moment in the young artist’s career came in 1871, when Benjamin-Constant embarked on an extended sojourn, travelling to Moorish Spain and Morocco. For the first time, Benjamin-Constant was exposed to the culture that would entrance him and inspire his art for the rest of his career.
Also significant in the artist’s development was his early training with Jules Garipuy, who had been a student of the monumental Eugéne Delacroix. Scholars often note Benjamin-Constant’s admiration for Delacroix as it surfaces in his paintings, particularly his lush palette and painterly surfaces.
Lovers of exotic and Orientalist themes in painting will want to register for the May 18 sale at Artcurial. The sale will feature a diverse range of outstanding 18th- and 19th-century Orientalist paintings, including an original from Benjamin-Constant. Titled “Porte de la Kasbah de Tanger,” the piece is not one of the artist’s masterpieces, but remains a gorgeous work with a bright palette and feathery brushwork. Amidst a shaded interior, seven figures converse, wearing turbans, exotic robes, and jewelry. A reclining man, closest to the viewer, interacts with his pet leopard as the others look on with interest. Beyond an arched doorway, the viewer discovers a simplified but lovely landscape. Benjamin-Constant’s juxtaposition of richly detailed foregrounds and flat planes of vivid color in the background is typical of his works, and additionally heightens the sense of recessive space. Auction estimates are between €100,000 and €150,000.
To view the full catalogue, visit Artcurial.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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