In London so a visit to the National Portrait Gallery was possible. On a previous visit I had seen the statue of Edward William Lane in a corner. As I was on a different mission on that occasion I made a mental note to look more closely next time. This was that ‘next time’.
Edward William Lane was a Victorian Orientalist. He studied and wrote extensively on the Egyptians and translated Arabic works. His most famous translation was ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ which he published between 1838 and 1840, first in monthly parts and later as three volumes. However, his version was cleaned up or censored to avoid any swooning by those early Victorians.
His portrait in the gallery was made by Richard James Lane and dates from 1829 when he returned to Britain from abroad. He is shown in Turkish dress since this was the attire adopted by the wealthy in Egypt.
This fascination with the exotic can also be seen in the portrait of Byron by Thomas Phillips. This dates from 1835 and shows the poet in Albanian dress. He died in 1824 and this version of the painting is based on a sitting from 1813.