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I-43863.1
© McCord Museum
Photograph
H. M. Holland as "Ali Baba," (posed for a composite), Montreal, QC, 1870
William Notman (1826-1891)
1870, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17.8 x 12.7 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
I-43863.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Mr. H. M. Holland has also chosen an exotic fantasy character, "Ali Baba." The photograph suggests that he has not used any authentic Middle Eastern clothing in his costume. The exotic impression is created by the turban and fake beard, worn with a rather poorly made shirt and loose trousers. One fancy dress manual, in reference to a very similar illustration described simply as "Oriental Costume," stated: "This unique costume is exceedingly simple and may be made at home."

It was generally recognized that many exotic portrayals were pure fantasy, but that was no deterrent to their popularity. One reporter observing a fancy dress ball wrote:
Greeks and Malays with daggers and dirks;
Spaniards, Jews, Chinese and Turks;
Some like original foreign works
But most like bad translations.

References
Masquerade and Carnival: Their Customs and Costumes (New York: Butterick, 1892), p. 38.

Toronto Daily Mail, 24 February 1876.

What:

Mr. Holland's "Ali Baba" costume appears to have been quickly assembled from low cost materials. There is more fantasy in the name than in the costume.

Where:

Mr. Holland has not been located in the Notman composite of the skating carnival, although he did attend and have his photograph taken.

When:

In the late 19th century, while such portrayals were popular, they revealed more about Western fascination with the exotic and prejudices concerning the people they intended to represent than they did about the models themselves.

Who:

Ali Baba is the main character in "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," one of the stories from the Arabian Nights.

© Musée McCord Museum