I find this image transfixing. Having long admired 19th- and early-20th-century Orientalist art, I enjoy Lalla Essaydi’s fresh approach to it. Here, the artist re-creates a French School harem pose, herself applying the hennaed Islamic calligraphy covering the woman’s body. Antique textiles are central to my projects and those used in this composition are sensational. Her bed, wrapped in a strong indigo-blue carpet, contrasts with the sweeter surrounding colours and brings the subject forward in the composition. Her layers of clothing appear to extend out into the profusion of silks around her, adding to her allure. This highly decorative, impactful piece provides a window into a secretive world, a place the artist describes as a “dangerous frontier where sacred law and pleasure collide”.
Several pieces of her work combine henna, which is traditionally used to decorate the hands and feet of brides, with Arabic calligraphy, a predominantly male practice.  While she uses henna to apply calligraphy to her female subjects' bodies, the words are indecipherable in an attempt to question authority and meaning.  "Although it is calligraphy that is usually associated with 'meaning' (as opposed to 'mere' decoration), in the visual medium of my photographs, the 'veil' of henna, in fact, enhances the expressivity of the images. By the same token, the male art of calligraphy has been brought into a world of female experience from which it has traditionally been excluded."