Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress

WAG 960


Today we recognise this artwork’s historic title is problematic. ‘Oriental’ is a European phrase broadly referring to regions in Asia, including China, Japan and the Middle East. This generalised term is now considered inappropriate and sometimes offensive. Paintings of men in Middle Eastern clothing were popular in Dutch art. This interest was partly based on the setting of many biblical stories. The 17th century also saw new trade routes between the Dutch and the Middle East. This introduced new fashions. Some artists dressed their models in these clothes. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.