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HOW THEY SAW THE COPTS: ÉMILE BERNARD’S PORTRAIT OF A COPTIC PRIEST

June 23, 2012

Émile Henri Bernard, Self-portrait, 1897 (in his Cairo period)

Émile Henri Bernard (1868 – 1941) was a French artist and writer of great talent. In November 1893, he arrived in Egypt, and lived in Cairo for at least until 1903. Bernard was a post-impressionist painter and was associated with other modern art movements. A large collection of beautiful art from his Cairo-period is known. I am not sure if he painted Coptic themes; however, a sketch of a Coptic priest, which he made in 1993, shortly after his arrival in Egypt, is known, which I reproduce below:

Portrait of Coptic Priest, by Émile Henri Bernard, 1893

The Coptic piece has been put up by Christie’s for sale. It is titled Portrait of a Coptic Priest. It is 22.9 x 17.8 cm in dimension, and made using ink and wash. The piece of art is signed and dated. Although one can see Coptic features in the priest, one can also detect some Japanese/Chinese features. This strikes me as strange, but gives the portrait a unique character.

 

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