Did you know

19 Mar 2024

Did you know? The British in Cyprus

By the end of the 19th century along with the development of ethnography, the British artists’ interest moved from the romantic to the exotic.

More people appeared in oriental dresses, palm trees adorned the horizon, strong light reflected the heat, views included pencil-like minarets and the monuments portrayed were mostly Lusignan, Venetian and Moslem edifices. These elements are to be found in paintings of the early 19th century as well. The difference was that then, Cyprus was an Ottoman province. It is, to say the least, anachronistic to insist on presenting Cyprus with an oriental outlook at a time when it was re-entering and reclaiming its European position, politically and culturally, and ignoring, or at least undertoning its Greek/Occidental elements. Why was this done?

One explanation is that the Oriental was exotic and thus different and more interesting. It was also still in fashion. It appealed to the British public, it attracted more buyers in the case of professional artists and it would probably prompt people to visit the island. It appealed to the vanity of the visitor, who could boast about having experienced the Orient, quaint and mystical, totally different. But it also served the Victorian British administration which could then justify its presence at the “back of Beyond” where it was bringing civilisation! It could be regarded as a great benefactor.

The ‘Did You Know’ series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus) and the Active Citizens Fund.

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