Friday, October 31, 2008

500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

I normally do not do this but Philip Scott Johnson's video of "500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art" surely deserves credit. I have just seen and fell in love with it. Nominated also for the Most Creative Youtube Video of 2007, it traverses the history of art accompanied by Bach's Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 performed by Yo-Yo Ma. I'm sure you will all agree with me and accept my apologies for deviating from my usual topics.




Women In Art from Philip Scott Johnson on Vimeo

The Porter and His Donkey

porter and his donkey in Istanbul

I thought this picture of a porter and his donkey would be a nice post to close the month. As humanity we owe a lot to animals, we have taken so much and given back so little.

Many, like dogs, horses and donkeys, have been used as service animals, especially in the army. During those days the tradition was such that after the animal retired, it was sent to one of the public pastures where food was plenty. The animal would be marked (usually its ear) with the sultan's signature. The signature meant it had a free ride; it could go any garden, literally anywhere and could do whatever it fancied. If the owner of a place nearby had required compensation because of the animal, he would have gone to a kadi (read as judge) and reported it. The damages would be paid from the treasury. Deliberately hurting a marked animal meant death.

This donkey's faith is unknown to me but it surely had a tough life.

Estimated value: $ 30

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beauty Queens of 1952

beauty queens of 1952

This got me wondering: is there a universal concept of beauty inherent to humans, or is it manufactured and marketed? I remember a test I took once. We were asked to choose which woman we liked most among 25 (I think), and I happened to pick the one from the time I was in my late teens. Does Rita Hayworth make today's generation feel like her own generation?

Sadi Gunel had his generation's ladies and published in 90 pages with 62 pictures. From the small print we understand that Miss Greece was popular then as he had especially mentioned the booklet contained her pictures.

Estimated value: $ 25

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hilye-i Serif by Kazasker Mustafa Izzed

hilye-i serif by kazasker mustafa izzedKazasker Mustafa Izzed (1801-1876) is another favorite Hilye-i Serif artist of mine. He lived during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid. At the top, we see a miniature of Mecca and Madinah, rococo style. The circle in the middle describes Mohammad, and in the four corner spots around the circle, the names of four caliphs are written.

Dimensions: 58x39 cm.
Estimated value: $ 100,000

Halil Pasha's Mosque Street in Cairo

mosque street by Halil Pasha

Now, let us find out if any of our Egyptian friends will recognize this street with a mosque, by Halil Pasha (1857 - 1939). I have found his technique a bit odd. At first glance, I thought he painted it with crayon or something similar, but it is actually oil on cardboard.


Coming from a military family, Pasha followed the family tradition and finished the war academy. Military schools were one of the few places, possibly the only place, where painting classes were available. After graduating as a lieutenant in 1873, Abdulaziz, the sultan of the time, liked his style (I mean his painting, not his tactical abilities), ordered him to the palace. He was sent to Paris to further his art training in 1880, and worked with Gerome and Courtois. His portrait, "Madame X" was awarded in the opening ceremony of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Dimensions: 33x21.5 cm.
Estimated value: $ 20,000

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day of the Clowns

I have never thought I would add a journal to this blog, my intention was to keep it lean and mean: interesting items that caught my attention, information about them and articles about not so popular things about Turkish culture. However, our geography is rarely stable and you sometimes live by the day, planning for the future simply becomes impossible.

I had one of those weekends. A Turkish court decided to block access to a blog on a blogspot.com domain (which one I do not know) and the result was not so pleasant: ISPS restricted access to all blogger.com and blogspot.com domains, ALL of them. Do not get me wrong, I neither blame nor dispute the court's decision. The Judge probably had no idea about what was going on and just acted upon the applicable law. But I will have a few things to say about this mockery of a governtment which passed the law as it was, knowing -they had been told- very well this would be the result.

You see, this government of clowns, with their faces painted in democratic colors is a bunch of ignorants who have very little notion of history and culture (they hardly read a book) and take fairy tales as facts, they are a crowd of get-goers with a belief system based on myths. Sadly, some, I really do not know why, believe them.I could make a list of the sites blocked by themand you would have a good idea what this was all about but posting has proved really difficult.

I have never had a problem accessing blogspot sites or any site for that matter, publishing will be difficult. I am checking on a few options suggested in Entrecard forums. Should you leave a comment, it might show up late due to moderation as I have to find a reliable and trusted way to log in first.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Marbled Inscription by Mehmed Sefik

marbled inscription by mehmed sefik
What sets apart this framed inscription by Mehmed Sefik (1819-1879) is its marbled border, which is an art form called "ebru". The colors truly shine after all these years. Styled with celi sulus (a calligraphic technique), it reads "Success is only possible with the help of God". Dated 1879.

Dimensions : 38x36 cm.
Estimated value: $ 11,000

Illustrations of Constantinople and Its Environs

Fisher illustrated book of Constantinople and its environs

Here is a book that old book enthusiasts (like me) will drool; I think this is the correct verb that describes my exact condition when I first saw it. A historical account of Istanbul and the scenery of the Seven Churches in Asia Minor plus the description of the plates were given by Rev. Robert Walsh. Both volumes (first one, 84 pages with 48 engravings, the second 100 pages with 49) were illustrated in drawings from nature by Thomas Allom. Printed by Fisher Son & Co., London & Paris, 1838.

Dimensions: 28.5x22 cm.
Estimated value: $ 4,500

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarayburnu by Ibrahim Safi

painting of Sarayburnu by Ibrahim Safi

Ibrahim Safi (1898-1983) was one of those whom the war and revolution had flown from place to place. He was born in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan and had his first education in Yerevan, Armenia. He then went to Moscow, to Fine Arts Academy but had to flee to Turkey after the Russian Revolution. He was really loved by people from diverse cultures and geographies, Turks, Russians, Armenians, Azeris, British, French, you name it. He was one of the most colorful people living in Beyoglu (Pera), Istanbul.

Here is a scenic view of Istanbul as seen from Sarayburnu, painted by him, oil on canvas. My biggest ambition when I see these paintings emerges from my subconscious immediately: take a picture of these places from the exact point of view of the painter. Every time, something happens and I delay this. Let us hope this blog helps and we all see how much progress (pun intended) we made.

Dimensions: 50x72 cm.
Estimated value: $ 14,000

Monday, October 20, 2008

Invitation Card of Ertugrul's Launch Ceremony

invitation to Ertugrul yacht

Ertugrul (this is the correct spelling) yacht was built for Sultan Abdulhamid II by Elswick Shipyard in Great Britain. Upon his wish, she was equipped with four 4.7 inch cannons (now, what do we call her, still a yacht?). The launch ceremony was held on Dec 30, 1903. Sadly, the Sultan never set foot on board her, and Madame Fortune had other plans in mind. She was ordered to transport ammunition in World War I to Dardanelles and only served its true purpose after the declaration of Turkish Republic, between 1925 and 1930 as a presidential yacht, hosting diplomatic visitors. She was lucky, though. Her ancestor by the same name, Ertugrul frigate had sunk near Yokohama, Japan on a friendly mission on Sep 16, 1890.

Estimated value: $ 1,200

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Russian Cigarette Box

Russian cigarette box enameled and gold plated
The Communist Revolution of 1917 in Russia brought many immigrants to Istanbul just like Paris and Vienna, the popular spots of the time. Some settled permanently and started a new life, some moved on to other destinations using Istanbul as a transit point. The ensuing dramas and happy endings are still waiting to be told but it generally is difficult to be an immigrant. My grand uncle's son married one of them, Tamara (it is also worth noting that two women by the same name - the second one is Georgian - had an important influence in our family); but her story will have to wait.

Apart from memories, they left countless items and memorabilia, not necessarily valuable but always sentimental. I can picture the owner of this enameled, low carat gold plated cigarette box of 1917 smoking and dreaming home with each puff, gazing the waters of the Bosporus, her eyes out of focus.

Estimated value: $ 275

Crossing Bosporus, on Foot

bosporus blocked by glaciers in winter of 1929

Here is a not so common old Istanbul picture. The winter of 1929 is still told by those who lived long enough to see the 21st century. It was terribly cold. If you polled the nation today, most would mistakenly report the event that Bosporus Strait had frozen then. Actually the reason was the glaciers from Black Sea that blocked it and made crossing it on foot possible. Dated 1 March 1929.

Estimated value: $ 35

Thursday, October 16, 2008

From the Moon with Love

astronauts letter to Turkish President
This is an interesting one. It is a mystery, at least to me, how this letter got out from the office of the President. Legally, this should be returned and/or seized by the government as it truly belongs to the state.

After their successful landing on the Moon with Apollo 11, the astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin had visited a few countries including Turkey. They later sent a letter thanking the then President Cevdet Sunay for the audience they were granted. With the NASA letterhead, dated 25 Oct 1969, the letter signed by the astronauts is clearly marked as addressed to the President, and I think, should be returned to the state archives but showed up in a 2008 auction.

Estimated value: $ 300

The Devil Has Been Defeated


Rejoice! The miracle drug has arrived.

This promo of Aspirin was so cute that I had difficulty in classifying it. A "holy cuteness" section perhaps? After the beating of the drum, a baritone voice announces that Aspirin has won the final battle against the devil, oh, and the dog is extremely happy. Late 19th century booklet of 28 pages in Turkish and in French.

Estimated value: $ 120

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tarot Cards with Ottoman Figures

tarot cards with ottoman figures
I have never been a believer of astrology, fortune telling or tarot, our subject. My aunt is a good fortune teller, or so people say, and always sees money and more money in my cup of Turkish coffee such that after she finishes the telling, people start looking at me, with expectations I guess. That feeling, people being extra nice, incredibly gentle and helpful, lasts for a few days and I enjoy it. So, whenever I have expectations from those around, I often ask my aunt to tell me what lies ahead. Since most of you will not be around (physically), I can tell you the truth: I am still poor. Yet, there is no reason not to try your luck with these cards, maybe Ottomans will help you. Be creative :-)

Estimated value: $ 120

Old Taximeters

taximeter of an Istanbul cab from 1930
The once Istanbul cabs were phenomenal. Usually American made, Chevrolets, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Plymouths, Pontiacs, they all strolled across the city. And they had taximeters, but I have never seen them operating properly; most were long out of order and you had to negotiate the fare each and every time. This meter is from 1930's. Those cars made their owners richer when old car dealers discovered Istanbul had a plethora of vehicles with really, I mean really affordable prices. Same does not hold true for the owners of taximeters as you can look at the price tag of this one.

Estimated value: $ 120

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bayer Book Marker

book marker promoting Bayer's Helmitol
This one is fairly recent, possibly 1950's. A book marker of Bayer, the pharmaceutical company, promoting Helmitol, a drug for urinary sicknesses as explained in the red colored phrase to the left of Bayer's logo. Am I the only one who observes less and less companies use this method of promotion, maybe except publishers? Welcome to the digital revolution.

Estimated value: $ 40

Greek Musician

engraving of a greek musician

A souvenir from my online voyages: a lovely engraving of a Greek musician from Van Mour. Sadly, I did not take note of its date. Extraordinary attention was given to every detail, from hat to shoes, socks to vest, etc. I have a few more of these and will post them eventually.

Dimensions: 37x26 cm.
Estimated value: $ 400

Monday, October 6, 2008

Syria Ottoman Railway Company Share

preference share of syria ottoman railway company
If you asked me who were the most daring investors despite their appearance, I would definitely say the British. When it comes to risking their money in exotic and unheard places, no one can beat them. Here is a preference share of Syria Ottoman Railway Company Limited issued to the name of one Henry Drayson Pilcher of London. He had no problem throwing his 20 pounds away - assuming he had bought only one share - in a company operating in a geography that would soon be divided in such a way that its repercussions would still make one thing in the area nearly impossible: peace. Dated 1893.

Estimated value: $ 75

Italian Post Office

italian post office, izmir, turkey

I thought it would be nice to continue with the pictures of the past century that I had come across. Here, we see the Italian Post Office in Izmir Harbor, soon after the turn of the century. The photograph is a copy and artificially colored. I was unable to get the the exact date but I would take a guess and say it is from 1918, just after World War I.

Estimated Value: $ 60

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ceremonial Sword of Sultan Mehmed Resad


Where to draw the line? When is it a weapon to kill, when an instrument of perfect craftsmanship? The sword carries the signature of Mehmed V (1909-1918) at the hilt and we see "S.M.S. Mohammad Khan V" written underneath; also marked with the seal of War Academy. The green reptile skin is wired with gold.

Length: 96.5 cm
Estimated value: $ 75,000