Istanbul and the Orientalists
Germaner, Semra and İnankur, Zeynep. Oryantalistlerin İstanbul’u. İstanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası, 2002, 329pp.


Istanbul and the Orientalists

Oryantalistlerin İstanbul’u

This book deals with the depictions and perceptions of nineteenth-century Constantinople/Istanbul as well as its daily life and “cultural, institutional and urban realities” of the city during this period. The research, a comprehensive study on the Orientalist reflections of life in the Ottoman capital, takes its place as a key resource on the subject of Orientalism and Istanbul. The introductory chapters of the study give a good coverage of the history of East and West encounters and Istanbul’s artistic milieu of the period.

The authors note that while “Istanbul’s exotic beauty and the wealth of its historical resources might have been the principal causes of the influx of a vast number of Orientalist artists, the attitude of the Court, which fostered Westernisation in the Ottoman Empire was also a chief factor for the magnitude of its appeal to Western artists”.

The book is constructed on this bi-axial hypothesis. The core chapters are focused on the Orientalist subjects from daily life, including the harem, bath and coffee houses, and the slave market. In addition to paintings, there are excerpts from the newspaper L’Illustration, travellers’ accounts and memoirs. The authors have not only introduced the Western sources but also the Ottoman representatives of the movement, such as “Prince Abdülmecid, the Caliph” and “Ottoman Orientalist Osman Hamdi”. 

As a part of the Istanbul depictions, and as an emerging “art” supported by the Ottoman Court, photography is treated in an individual chapter. 

The study shows that “Istanbul was one of the most active centres for nineteenth-century Orientalists.” The output of Orientalist artwork in this period was vast.

The appended list composed of Western artists who visited Istanbul from 1891 to 1916 covers over 160 painters including French, British, German, Italian, Austrian, American, Danish, Belgian, Swiss, Maltese, Polish, Russian, Dutch and Hungarian artists. The authors consulted a great quantity of written records and accumulated a comprehensive collection of visual material – with an excellent graphic quality – mainly located at present in Turkey. Published both in English and Turkish, the book constitutes a major contribution to the field of Orientalism and nineteenth-century Istanbul.

Sezim Sezer

Sezer, Sezim. “English abstract of 'of Istanbul and the Orientalists'". Translated by Sezim Sezer. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 94. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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