Dinet, bard of Bou Saâda

On 20 June 2019, by Anne Foster and Claire Papon

On his first trip in 1884, Étienne Dinet fell in love with Bou Saâda, the "city of happiness". He returned several times before buying a house there in 1905, recounting the daily life and celebrations of the people of this oasis in his painting.

Étienne Dinet (1861-1929), Jour de fête, fillettes demandant la récompense à l'occasion de la fête de l’Aïd (Day of Celebration, Girls Asking for a Reward on the Feast of Eid), oil on canvas, 85 x 81 cm.
Estimate: €200,000/300,000

After converting to Islam, Nasr ad Dine – his new name – had a qubba built in Bou Saâda, Algeria, in 1925 to house his future tomb; four years later, with Sliman ben Ibrahim, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Deeply attached to Algerian culture and traditions as well as Islam, he noted the festivals of the Ouled Naïl Mountains at the foot of the Saharan Atlas. In this painting, Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Ramadan fast, a day of praying, feasting and giving gifts to children. The man wears his finest clothes and holds his prayer book in his hand. The theatrical gestures, the little girls’ envious, laughing faces and the man’s bemused look give the scene action and intensity. But beyond showing a festive moment in a Southern village, the Impressionist palette’s colourful flamboyance reflects Dinet's mysticism, which depicts a kind of paradise bathing in the coolness of Southern Algeria’s oases and the desert’s strong sunlight. Some works considered too risqué were burned during the dark years that shook Algeria. The most important thing remains an undeniable reality: Dinet – or ad Dine – succeeded in raising these village scenes to the rank of timeless art works, now in high demand.

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