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The Moorish Bath

Earl Shinn ["Edward Strahan"], Gerome: A Collection of the works of J.L Gerome in One Hundred Photogravures. Multiple Volumes. New York: Samuel L. Hall, 1881.

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Muslims who can afford the trifling expense which it requires; and not only of human beings, but of evil genii, unfortunately, on which account, as well as on that of decency, several precepts respecting it have been dictated by Mohammed. It is frequented for the purpose of performing certain ablutions required by the religion of the faithful, or by a regard for cleanliness and its salutary effects, and for mere luxury. Edward William Lane, the distinguished Arabic scholar, says that the public bath comprises several apartments, with mosaic or tesselated pavements, composed of white and black marble, and pieces of fine tile, and sometimes of other materials. The inner apartments are covered with a dome having a number of very small, round windows for the admission of light. It is through these openings that the long and vapor-powdered rays stream down in our present scene, and splash in brilliant little ovals on the wall and the floor and in the damsel's hair—an effect of light which Gerome has amused himself more than once by depicting, with varying success. The baths in private houses are similar to the public ones, but on a smaller scale, generally consisting of only two or three chambers. It is probable that this Light of the Harem is in her own private establishment, as the chambers in the public bathing-places are much larger than the one in which she and her dusky attendant find themselves. The slave has rubbed her mistress' supple form all over, the soles of her feet possibly with a coarse earthen rasp, and her limbs and body with a woollen bag which covers the hand as a glove, has kneaded her flesh like good dough, and is now carefully preparing the lather with soap and water and fibres of the palm-tree, to complete the ablutions. Then will follow a cup of fragrant coffee for the fair bather and the delightful and dreamy relaxation which ensues. Let us hope that in her idle waking dreams she may have no knowledge of the barbarians and unbelievers who have ventured to profane her privacy.

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