painters played a major role in the development of painting in Turkey. When the
Academy of Fine Arts was established in the 19th century, four of the five
foreign professors brought from Europe were Italian. The first was Leonardo
de Mango, who founded the oil painting department. The second was the
famous artist Salvador Valeri, professor of pastel and charcoal
drawing, followed by Philip le Bello, an authority on
watercolor, and finally by Ecvaroni. All appointments were on
the orders of sultan.
later, another accomplished young
Italian painter, Fausto Zonaro, was appointed painter to the
imperial palace. Many of his paintings are still in the palace collection and
private collections in Turkey today. Zonaro was celebrated for his vivid
Istanbul scenes, in which he skillfully captured the people of diverse
occupations and nationalities who filled the streets of this cosmopolitan city.
His landscapes of the Bosphorus, and depictions of historic events are also
among Zonaros well known works, and he won renown for his portraits, which
are diffused with light.
The tradition continued, and several years
Fausto Zonaro was born in Padua on 18 September 1854. He began painting as a
child, and was first in the class throughout his primary and secondary education.
He achieved the same success at Verona Academy of Fine Arts, and after
completing his military service went on to study at the Faculty of Fine Arts in
Rome. His first exhibition opened in 1885, was well received, and in 1888 a new
exhibition of his work was held in Paris.
worked as both painter and decorator in Venice and Naples over the next two
years, receiving commissions from the nobility. He was also awarded a knighthood
by the king.
Books about the Orient he had read since his childhood aroused his curiosity,
and drew him to Istanbul. He arrived in the city, which he described as heaven
on earth, in 1891, and made up his mind to stay. His first paintings of Istanbul
quickly won him renown in his adopted home. Every day he spent sketching and
painting in different parts of a city celebrated for its haunting views.
Around that time, the news that the Turkish warship Ertuğrul
was to sail to Japan sent a wave of excitement through Istanbul, and the ship
left Galata to an exuberant send-off, unaware that it would be swallowed by
stormy waves on the return journey. Her officers standing on deck in dazzling
dress uniform, the Ertuğrul set sail as a band played on the quayside and the
Zonaro was greatly moved by this scene, which he painted and presented as a
gift to Sultan Abdülhamid. The sultan was so impressed that he
appointed Zonaro court painter with the title of Painter to His Majesty the
Sultan, and presented him with an imperial decoration. Replacing his hat
with a fez, Zonaro embarked on an illustrious career. For a while he gave
lessons at his studio on Akaretlar Street in Beşiktaş to Mihri Hanım
and Celile Hanım, two of the first Turkish women painters. He
also taught Abdülmecid Efendi, son of Sultan Abdülaziz, who was to serve
briefly as caliph following the dissolution of the Ottoman monarchy, and became
an accomplished painter.
Sultan Abdülhamid was a dedicated patron of the arts, and would frequently
invite foreign theatre companies and musicians who came to Istanbul to perform
at the palace theatre. Meanwhile, he commissioned Zonaro to paint a number of
historical scenes, including the Turkish-Greek War, the triumphal entry of
Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror into Istanbul, and the Battle of Preveze. Although
late in his reign Abdülhamid decided to appoint Zonaro to the rank of Paşa, he
was deposed before the appointment could be made. This is why Zonaro is referred
to as Zonaro Paşa in some foreign sources.
Fausto Zonaro painted for the Turkish palaces for 20 years, and left behind
an irreplaceable record on canvas of Istanbul and the Bosphorus, as well as many
historical scenes. A large number of these paintings still hang in Dolmabahçe
and other national palaces.
Zonaro painted street scenes, mosques, fountains, baths, weddings, religious
festivals, street sellers, scribes, firemen, water vendors, fishermen and all
the other sights of old Istanbul, depicting the era in his animated style and
Zonaro was one of those who made a major contribution to the development of
western style art in Turkey. His eventual departure, however, brought an
ignominious and hurtful end to his long stay in Turkey. When the Italians
attacked Tripoli, then part of the Ottoman Empire, in 1911, Turkey was outraged
by this violation of its sovereignty, and as a gesture of protest ordered all
Italians to leave the country. No exceptions were made, and among them were
Prof. De Mango of the Academy of Fine Arts, and court painter Fausto Zonaro.
This event deprived Zonaro of paşas rank for the second time. The
appointment had been imminent, and Zonaro was preparing for a large exhibition
to celebrate the occasion. He was given just three days to leave the country,
and in this time hurriedly sold off around three hundred of his paintings -
which filled his studio in Beşiktaş for a fraction of their real value. He
left grieving for the land which had become his home.
Back in Italy he chose to settle in San Remo, hoping that the sea would
assuage his yearning for Istanbul . Here, despite an increasing dependence on
alcohol, he continued to paint landscapes of the Bosphorus on the one hand, and
on the other a series of panels depicting bohemian scenes. He died in San Remo
on 19 July 1929. The epitaph on his tombstone records that he was painter to the
Ottoman court and is surmounted by the sultans monogram. In 1977, around
three hundred of his paintings owned by members of his family were shown at an
exhibition in Florence which received wide acclaim in the art world. Nearly two
thirds works depicted scenes in Turkey, the country which had been his source of
- Palace Painter Fausto Zonaro
- By Taha Toros