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Philip Mansel on the future Edward VII’s Ottoman expedition
Cairo to Constantinople: Francis Bedford’s Photographs of the Middle East
Sophie Gordon, with an introduction by John McCarthy and contributions by Badr El Hage and Alessandro Nasini.
Royal Heritage Trust
Courts in the 19th century remained centres of power and patronage – as Istanbul’s stupendous collection of 19th-century palaces (Dolmabahçe, Beylerbeyi, Çırağan and Yıldız) shows. To commemorate and publicise their activities, courts used the new medium of photography, as well as the traditional medium of painting. Queen Victoria alone had 51 photographers “by appointment”, from Edinburgh to Bombay. Her son’s first official photographer was Francis Bedford, subject of this lavish and haunting book, published to accompany exhibitions in 2013 in Edinburgh and in 2014 in London.
Bedford was appointed before the Prince of Wales’s five-month trip round the Ottoman Empire in February–June 1862, which he joined in order to record “scenes so fraught with historic and sacred associations”. The journey was made to occupy the prince before his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, as well as to allow him to see the main sites of Egypt, Turkey and the Holy Land. The party visited Cairo, Aswan, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beirut, Damascus, Rhodes and Istanbul. They were particularly proud of entering mosques to which Christians had not previously been admitted.Photographs are mainly of temples and palaces, wayside halts and picnics. In many the party looks grim-faced: the prince was accompanied by Dean Stanley, who preached a sermon once a week, which he later published. There is a rare photograph of Said Pasha, the ruler who sold Egypt to foreign bankers, as well as his suzerain the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz. The photographs being exhibited and published now were also exhibited and published in 1862.
The most memorable, with many warnings for today, show the Christian quarter of Damascus after the 1860 massacres in which – partly because of their growing confidence and prosperity – several thousand Christians had been killed by Muslims. Churches, houses and shops were destroyed. Bedford’s photographs show that even two years later there was nothing, and no one, left.
The tour reflects the persistence of the Crimean alliance between Britain and the Ottoman Empire, to which Queen Victoria long remained devoted. The Prince of Wales was a keen patron of Carl Haag, one of the many Orientalist painters who showed their admiration for Islam and the Ottoman Empire in their work. Haag painted Jerusalem and Balmoral with the same brilliant fluency. Some of his watercolours of the prince’s journey are reproduced in this book. He later created a “Turkish room” for the prince at Sandringham, and became a court painter to his brother Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg. Haag too deserves an exhibition.
Philip Mansel’s ‘Constantinople, City of the World’s Desire’; ‘Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean’ and ‘Sultans in Splendour, Monarchs of the Middle East’, are all available online
Yevpatoria in Crimea was the home the young Anna Akhmatova, an icon of Russian literature, who fell foul of Stalin
Like many writers, Chekhov made his way to Crimea to nurse his TB in a milder climate. His two houses, now museums, became magnets for artists. One he left to his sister, the other to his wife.
By any standard, Hüsamettin Koçan’s mountain-top Baksı Museum, in the northeastern Anatolian village where he was born, deserves a place among the world’s top ten remote museums.
This silver goblet was one of more than 600 medieval treasures from Central Asia crowding Bonhams’ elegant rooms in Edinburgh for six days in January.
Mulberries come in an array of hues: black, white, pink, purple; some enticingly sweet, others astringent and healing. As Berrin Torolsan can testify, having grown up with them in her Istanbul garden, all are adored – by man, mallard and pine marten alike. Here she traces the history of this lucious fruit
Thomas Whittemore, the American scholar and philanthropist, was instrumental in restoring the Byzantine treasures of Ayasofya. Robert S Nelson delves into his enigmatic life
The V&A’s Tim Stanley eyes up the Louvre’s astonishing new Islamic offering
From the towers of Tatary to the tombs of Scythian kings, from clifftop citadels to an underground castle, from Balaklava to the beaches of the Tsarist Riviera, Crimea is a land to fall in love with, waiting to be enjoyed, not destroyed
As the Sadberk Hanım Museum celebrates the art of embroidery, Min Hogg marvels at the motifs of palaces, fruit and flowers, sea and cityscape, wrought stitch by stitch, to adorn every Ottoman home
Aard Streefland tells the story of the Dutch orientalist Marius Bauer (1867–1932)
The Crimean khans founded their capital in the fertile foothills of the Crimean Mountains in the 15th century. This was the nucleaus of the land known as Cim Tartary. The garden palace of Bahçesaray is a glorious reminder of the khans’ 350-year reign
Dramatic and picturesque, Crimea’s southern coast became a resort for doomed royalty and a refuge for ailing literati
Two ports – Sevastopol and Yevpatoria – rule Crimea’s flat west coast. One was built for war, the other for recreation. Both played a part in the Crimean War
Geonese merchants, a millionaire painter and a symbolist poet brought fortune and fame to the eastern stretches of Crimea’s south coast and its fertile hinterland
Balaklava, Sevastopol, Inkerman, the Valley of Death – in Britain, where the savage toll was so acutely felt, these names still have the power to arouse pride and fury. Algernon Percy travelled to Crimea to visit the evocative battlefields
From the Danube to the Caucasus, conflict raged. The Ottomans were fighting for their territories and their lives, but the full story of their courage is only now being told, says the military historian Mesut Uyar
The war of 1853–56 was a calamitous clash of imperial ambitions. Turkey sustained heavy losses, but without them she might have ceased to exist. David Barchard puts the conflict in context
With its healing brine baths and golden beaches, its wealth and variety of architecture, and its layers-deep history, this resort offers something for everyone – from hedonist to hypochondriac
The London Academy of Ottoman Court Music, with Emre Aracı. Produced by Ates Orga,
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