Incensing the Veil - john singer sargent, 1880

john singer sargent (Florence, 1856 - 1925, London)

Incensing the Veil, 1880

Watercolor on paper, 31.1 x 19.7 cm (12 1/4 x 7 3/4 in.)


Object details

Accession number


Dimension Notes

Frame: 60.5 cm x 50 cm (23 13/16 in. x 19 11/16 in.)


Gift from John Singer Sargent to Dr. Samuel Pozzi (1846–1918), French surgeon and gynecologist.
Knoedler & Co., New York purchased at the auction of Pozzi's collection, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 23-24 June 1919, lot 24.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the art dealer Daniel H. Farr, Philadelphia on 17 November 1919 for $1,950. (as "Mauresque")


Inscribed and signed in pencil (bottom right): à Pozzi, souvenir amical John S. Sargent
Inscribed in ink (verso): N.16; E(sic) 44-55


Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 35.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 227-28.
Mary Crawford Volk. John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1992), p. 27, fig. 3.
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray. John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1871–1882. Complete Paintings Volume IV. (New Haven and London, 2006), p. 305, cat. 791.
Kathleen A. Foster. American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent. Exh. cat. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2017), pp. 192-93, fig. 160.

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This copy of an earlier oil painting (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA) is inscribed to Sargent’s friend Samuel Pozzi, who assembled one of the most important collections of Sargent’s work. Isabella Stewart Gardner purchased it after Pozzi’s death. The picture shows a Northern African woman inhaling the smoke of ambergris burning in the small brazier in front of her. The sweet-smelling incense was believed to ward off evil spirits and also served as an aphrodisiac.

Source: Oliver Tostmann and Anne-Marie Eze, The Inscrutable Eye: Watercolors by John Singer Sargent in Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Collection, exhibition on view in the Museum's Fenway Gallery, October 31, 2013–January 20, 2014.