[ W ] Edwin Lord Weeks - The Doctor's Visit (from A Thousand and One Night series) (1903)
In the late 1890s, Edwin Lord Weeks embarked on an ambitious series of paintings based on A Thousand and One Nights. He exhibited Man Waking from Sleep in 1898, at the Paris Exposition of that year, and L'histoire de
Noureddin et la belle Persane, a year later at the Paris Salon of 1899. A series of four paintings of The Porter of
Bagdad were sold in the artist's estate sale of 1905; Number 3 of that series was shown at the Paris Salon of 1901.
The present painting, The Doctor's Visit, bears a label in Weeks' own hand, sending it to the Universal Exposition in
St. Louis in 1904. Weeks, like most artists, sent only recent paintings to major exhibitions, thus enabling us to date
The Doctor's Visit to circa 1903, the year of his untimely death.
The Doctor's Visit achieved the highest price among the "1001 Nights" paintings at the artist's estate sale of 1905.
Curiously, The Doctor's Visit exploits an interesting combination of imagery, visually rooted in India and Persia to
recount a story rooted in Arabic literature. In this work, Weeks has extracted architectural elements from his Indian paintings of the 1880s and 1890s and recombined them into a fantasy of form and pattern as a setting for the
Doctor to visit his patient lying upon a marble plinth in the shadow of early morning sunshine. The setting overlooks the azure Lake of Udaipur, India; in the distance are the semi-arid purple hills surrounding the Lake and Palace of Udaipur. Weeks has fashioned an imagined portion of this famed island palace as the open-air lounging spot of bright white marble for his Princess, who lies upon the cushions for her back and the stone for her outstretched legs.
She rests, seductively, in airy white silk halter and gown, accented in gold, falling around her thighs and lower legs
to form a mound of ripples in front of her. Her gold tiara and multi-stranded necklace frame her youthful face with
wide, dark eyes, slight smile and long, raven hair: her features all tell of Persian ancestry, as do those of the Doctor.
Yet the Doctor's costume of embroidered peach-colored silk, tight about the torso and flaring wide–almost to the floor–is purely Indian in style. The gorgeous shimmer of the material has a coarse, dark seam starting at the waist
and ending just above the curious upturned toe of his shoes. In its backlit beauty, this fabulously-rendered robe
appears royal in nature. The entire costume, from head to foot, begins a dialogue with the form and pattern of the
slim, marble column to the left. Weeks has used both elements, figure and column lit in sunshine, to frame the
space occupied by the lounging princess. The narrative of The Doctor's Visit is contained within these two
beautifully-designed elements by this extremely skillful painter at the end of his career.