A fascinating look into the relationship which existed between the Ottoman Empire and Europe for over three centuries through the eyes of court painters.
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Ottoman Empire welcomed more ambassadors than it sent to other countries. It was important for these visiting ambassadors to document the Turkish cities, particularly Istanbul, and the social structure, customs and military organisation of the Ottoman Empire. One way to do this was to write reports upon return to their homelands, but they also took away gifts from the Sultanate and paintings, which they themselves commissioned, as evidence of life in the Ottoman Empire.
The paintings were produced by Orientalist artists, and became expressions of respectability and social status. The selection displayed at Pera Museum comes from the Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation, and features stand-outs such as the portraits of Charles Gravier, the Count of Vergennes and the French Ambassador, as well as his wife, the Countess of Vergennes, both in Turkish attire and painted by Antoine de Favray in 1768. There are a number of works by Jean-Baptise Vanmour, who came to Istanbul in 1699 in the suite of the French Ambassador, the Marquis de Ferriol, and left perhaps the most comprehensive visual record of Istanbul than any other artist. Fausto Zonaro’s 1896 painting showing the daughter of the English Ambassador being carried across an Istanbul park is another highlight.