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HOW THEY SAW THE COPTS: COPTIC BATISMAL PROCESSION BY THE BRITISH ARTIST SIMEON SOLOMON

March 2, 2013

Coptic baptismal procession 1865

Figure 1: Coptic Baptismal Procession by Simeon Solomon, 1865 (at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, UK).

Simeon Solomon (1840 – 1905) was an English painter, from a Jewish family, whose work is Pre-Raphaelite. He has great pieces of art from the Old Testament and the Classic Period.

 Solomon

Figure 2: Solomon in oriental costume (a photo by David Wilkie Wynfield [1837–1887], a British painter and photographer).

One of the known paintings by him is “Coptic Baptismal Procession”, which is dated 1865. It is kept at Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, Bedfordshire, UK. The work is 25.9×42.4 cms in dimension, and is made of watercolour, gouache, and gum Arabic. The work is of course very beautiful; however, like the work of the Dutch lithographer and painter Charley Toorop “Koptische Vrouw (Coptic Woman)”, I don’t think it depicts Coptic subjects except, perhaps, the priest. This seems to me an Ethiopian Baptismal Procession led by the Coptic Egyptian Abune (or head of the Ethiopian Church who was a Coptic monk sent from Egypt). If it was a Coptic depiction, Solomon must have used a bit of imagination in it. But do we know if Solomon travelled to Egypt or Ethiopia? Where did he get his topic from? I wish I could get an answer to that. Sadly, all his biographies on the net are limited, and seem to be focused on his sexual life alone.

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