Unlike other French Orientalist style painters of his time, Alphonse Etienne Dinet succeeded in becoming immersed in this culture, creating very accurate depictions of the Algerian people’s life. A student of academic maître William Bouguereau, Dinet began making his Modernist, ethnographic paintings in 1881 at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. His work was ultimately shaped by a trip to Southern Algeria in 1884, where he began focusing on what would become his favorite subject, creating luminous renderings of the African landscapes. He became so enchanted with North Africa and its culture that after following trips he moved to Bou Saâda, officially adopting Islam as his religion in 1913 and changing his name to Nasr’Eddine Dinet. His understanding of the Arab language and his friendship with Sliman Ben Ibrahim allowed him privileged access to local life. Through traversing the desert alongside nomadic and Bedouin tribes, he became familiar with the Arab and Berber cultures.
His paintings document the people and culture of Islamic Algeria and are frequently populated by female nudes, rendered in warm, vibrant colors endemic to the rural locale. In Costume de Fête, he offers an intimate portrayal of traditional festive protocols. In Arabic society, children are highly valued and are considered a wealth and a blessing to their parents, and as in many cultures, their care is exclusively female domain.
Dinet, with his realistic, ethnographic style of painting, offers through this picture a detailed glance into the richness of traditional Algerian garments. These are still today very popular and commonly worn and are influenced by three different civilizations: Arab, African, and the Mediterranean. The traditional female Algerian outfits are usually bright, colorful, modest in design, and richly decorated. The fabrics used to make clothes are cotton, wool, and velvet, with rich embroidered decorations often with gold and silver threads, lace, beadwork, and jewelry. As most Algerians are Muslims, women mostly hide their bodies from prying eyes and cover their heads with diverse headdresses.
In 1889 Dinet received a silver medal for painting at the Exposition Universelle, and although he later distanced himself from French artist societies, he would continue to participate in the Expositions colonials in 1906 and 1922, and regularly contribute to the Salons de la Société de Peintures Orientalistes, gaining mayor recognition both in France and Alger.