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Portrait Of George August Wallin. 1811 - 1852

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Pencil portrait (c1840s) of the famous Finnish explorer George August Wallin
Georg August Wallin 1811 - 1852
Graphite on paper
47 x 31cm

Georg August Wallin (Yrjö Aukusti Wallin a.k.a. Abd al-Wali;

Wallin (24 October 1811 – 23 October 1852) was a Finnish Orientalist, explorer and professor remembered for his journeys in the South-west Asia during the 1840s.
Wallin was born in the municipality of Sund, Åland in 1811. He attended Cathedral School of Åbo in Turku and moved to Rauma with the school after the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. The following year, however, he dropped out of school and studied privately. In 1829 he enrolled to study Oriental Languages at the University of Helsinki, graduating with an MA in 1836. He then began writing a dissertation about Arabic and Persian, while working as a librarian in the university library.
In 1839 he travelled to St. Petersburg, where he met Sheikh Muhammad 'Ayyad al-Tantawi and learned more about the Middle East. He made his first expedition to the area in 1843.
When Wallin went for his expeditions he portrayed himself as a Muslim and took the name Abd al-Wali in order to get closer to his subjects. Many people believe Wallin converted to Islam, but there is no proof to support that claim in his diaries and letters. His grave in Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki has his Arabic name engraved in Arabic letters. He is buried in a Christian cemetery.
He visited Mecca in 1845, a city otherwise forbidden to non-Muslims, on his first expedition, which took him from Cairo to Ma'an, Al Jauf, Jubba, Ha'il, Medinah, Mecca, and Jiddah.
On his second expedition between 1846 and 1848, he visited Palestine and Persia. During this time he may have adopted Islam, although his writings indicate scepticism toward religion.
By 1850 Wallin had returned to Europe, where the Royal Geographical Society published his Notes taken during a Journey through part of Northern Arabia and awarded him a 25 guinea prize in recognition of his ground-breaking research. Wallin completed his doctoral thesis in 1851 and was subsequently appointed Professor of Oriental Literature at the University of Helsinki. He was asked by both the Royal and Russian Geographical Societies to mount another expedition to the Middle East, but he declined, perhaps in part due to failing health.
He wrote that he found European culture oppressive and that he "couldn't adapt [him]self to Europe any more". Wallin died unexpectedly on 23 October 1852, only three years after his return to Finland and a day before his forty-first birthday.