The conquest of Istanbul through the eyes of Zonaro
If Sultan Abdulhamid hadn’t given the order, our only picture of Mehmet The Conqueror would be gentile Bellini’s Portrait.
Chief Palace Painter Fauso Zonaro worked for months at the behest of Abdulhamid to depict Mehmed IIs conquest of Istanbul from the lowering of the galleons into the Golden Horn to the commander’s victorious entry into the Byzantine capital.
The 34th of the Ottoman sultans and as a caliph of Islam, Abdulhamid succeeded in keeping the Ottoman Empire on its feet for 33 years from 1876 to 1908.
He would be respected and appreciated not only for the successful reconstruction projects on which he embarked upon his accession to the throne, but also for the cultural activities that he patronized. The large visual archive known as ‘The Yildiz Photographs of the Reign of Sultan Abdulhamid is one of the world’s oldest known and most important collections. Abdulhamid, who took a keen interest in the art of painting, appointed Che Italian Orientalist painter Fausto Zonaro his ‘Palace Painter’.
Orientalist painter Fausto Zonaro
Born in 1854 to an extremely poor family in a small village in Italy’s Veneto region, Zonaro nevertheless had a very colorful and exciting life. His art reached its zenith in Istanbul, where he came first as a traveler, when he was appointed the Ottoman Palace Painter by Sultan Abdulhamid II early in 1896.
Zonaro’s acquaintance with Munir Pasha, the Minister of Protocol of Yildiz Palace, would be an important turning point in his life. Following that meeting, he met Osman Hamdi Bey, who made sure that his paintings were seen and appreciated by Abdulhamid. And in 1896 he was honored with the title and position of Chief Palace Painter.
Halil Ibrahim feast
A stroll through the old quarters on the opposite bank of the Asi is one of the best ways to get a feel for the city. For preserved here in the stone-paved courtyards that join the narrow lanes are the finest examples of the old Antakya houses: Antakya House, the mansions of Fuad Kuseyri and of the Yahyaogullari, Halepogullari and other families. These two- and three-story houses, the oldest of which is 200 years old, were built facing the mountains, while their stone-paved courtyards boast pools and gardens.
The call of the muezzin mingles with the peal of church bells as children play marbles in the narrow cobblestone streets. A city frequently mentioned in the Bible, Antakya has a high potential for faith tourism. And the Church of St. Peter is an important place of pilgrimage for Christians in this city which is home to the first church after the one at Jerusalem. Our extended stroll through these streets steeped in history is enough to whet our appetites.
Our destination this time is Harbiye, 10 kilometers outside the city and a resort area going back to Roman times, where hidden waterfalls rush down into a deep, wooded valley. Offering the full range of Antakya cuisine, the restaurants at Harbiye are true palate pleasers. And olive oil soap, and the silk scarves and hope chests produced in the neighboring villages are sold in shops on the road to the falls. Refreshing to body and spirit with its pure air and outstanding cuisine, Harbiye is great for a day’s outing, and we are mighty glad we came here.