fausto zonaro


fausto zonaro
(Masi 1854 - San Remo 1929)
On the Bosphorus near the Küçüksu Çeşme
signed ‘F Zonaro’ (lower left) and inscribed ‘F. Zonaro sul Bospero’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
46 x 65 cm (18⅛ x 25⅝ in)
ull of colour and light, this evocative
painting by Fausto Zonaro blends a painting technique which is
unique to him, and that combines French Impressionism, Venetian
colouring and Neapolitan realism, a style which he developed during
his year in Paris in 1888.
A caïque has just set off from the shores of the Bosphorus. It elegantly
glides across the calm waters, as the reflection of its two passengers and four
caïque-gees is perfectly mirrored on its surface. Light in weight and resembling
a narrow wooden canoe with an elongated end, the caïque is driven across the
water using long paddles, and despite its fragility glides through the water with
little resistance.
it is the focus of the painting, as in the present work or Ride in a Caïque, see
figure 2, or a detail in a more elaborate composition. Apart from the vessels’
sense of elegance and movement, perhaps Zonaro, as a foreigner to the city,
saw them as a quintessential symbol of the exoticism of Turkey. one to which
Zonaro returned on a number of occasions throughout his career.
Born in Italy, Zonaro worked extensively in his native land and Paris,
before moving to Constantinople at the age of thirty-seven with Elisabetta
Pante, his pupil and wife to be. The couple married in Istanbul and settled
in a house on the northern bank of the Golden Horn. Describing Istanbul as
heaven on earth, Zonaro was absorbed by the city and painted every possible
aspect of Istanbul life, its people, architecture, customs and more. Between
Fausto Zonaro, Anadoluhisar Fountain,
Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul (Figure 1)
Fausto Zonaro, Ride in a Caïque,
Pera Museum, Istanbul, (Figure 2)
The scene takes place by the Küçüksu Çeşme, a fountain located on the
shores of the Bosphorus in the valley of Guiuk-Suey, known to Europeans as
the ‘Meadow of the Sweet Waters of Asia’. Located near the Anadoli Hissar
Castle, the meadow was a favourite resort of the fashionable elite. The spot
was an idyllic one, which was depicted on numerous occasions by artists,
particularly foreign ones. Zonaro himself depicted the fountain from another
angle, see figure 1, and both works evoke the startling brightness of the Turkish
sun, but also the surprising tranquillity of the spot, given its proximity to
Constantinople. Robert Walsh, when describing the meadow in 1838 said
‘Those who resort from the European shore come in caïques; those from the
Asiatic in arrhubas’.¹ Zonaro’s painting echoes Walsh’s description, as people
are ferried across the Bosphorus.
The Caïque was a subject which Zonaro returned to repeatedly, whether
his arrival in 1890, to his departure in 1910, Zonaro painted around 1,300
pictures of the city.
Zonaro quickly established a reputation in Constantinople, and soon his
works came to the attention of the Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918). The
Sultan was so impressed that he appointed Zonaro to the position of court
painter. As ‘Painter to His Majesty the Sultan’ He adopted the fez, learnt
Turkish, and gave lessons to princes in the studio in the grounds of Yildiz
Palace. Zonaro had a hugely successful career in Turkey, only returning to Italy
in 1910 to live in San Remo, where he later died. The newspaper Il Progresso
admirably surmised his talent in 1911, saying ‘This artist is a poet. His
diminutive landscapes are sonatas that give color to life while his big canvases
are comparable to poems that true poets admire and wish that they themselves
had written’.²
¹ Allom T., & Walsh, R., Constantinople and the Scenery of the Seven Churches of Asia
Minor (Fisher, Son & Co., London, 1838), vol. I, p.82.
² Quoted in Öndeş, O., & Makzume, E., Ottoman Court Painter Fausto Zonaro
(Istanbul, 2002) p. 13.