Canal of Mahmoudieh in Alexandrie at night, Egypt, 1868
Oil on canvas, H. 0.69 m; W. 1.01 m
Signed and dated lower left: L. Belly 68.
Provenance: Private collection, France
Lynne Thornton, Les orientalistes, peintres voyageurs, Paris, 1983, p. 96-101.
Belly was born in Saint-Omer but moved to Paris. He studied for a short time in Picot’s studio, nevertheless it was through his friendship with the Barbizon painters that Belly received his artistic training, most notably from Constant Troyon. He was later influenced by the work of Marilhat and Decamps.
His first trip to the Middle East in 1850 was set up to accompany the painter Léon Loysel on a scientific mission to study the historical geography of the region. They followed the Dead Sea and went up to Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria. There, Belly produced some of his most famous works, such as a scene of ruins in Baalbeck and the olive groves of Nabi Jonas. These paintings were exhibited in his first participation at the Salon of 1853.
In 1855, he ventured back to the Sinaï desert and made his way up the Nile with Narcisse Berchère and Jean-Léon Gérôme. In 1861, Belly became famous with the execution of his masterpiece Pèlerins allant à la Mecque, today in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Belly painted a series of pictures capturing the harmonies of the local colours in the sandy desert and Nile valley, produced anatomical studies of camels and men with vigorous strokes of colours.