Looking at the Past

Nineteenth Century Images of Constantinople as Historic Documents

By: Nancy Micklewright

Originally Published in 1990

View PDF

Unlace events in more re­mote periods (the Bronze Age, Classical Antiquity, or even the Renaissance), the events and people of the last century seem close to us, and therefore more comprehensible. The study of the 19th century Middle East seems deceptively easy—there are many, many objects, texts, and even pic­tures concerned with what went on and what life was like. Images, especially photographs, are partic­ularly compelling. We find our­selves looking into the faces and lives of people whose names we sometimes know, and who might actually have been our ancestors, not in a theoretical, evolutionary sense, but in an actual, historical way.

'Sultane en galla,' from the two-volume work entitled Costumes Turc produced ca. 1790 supposedly for the Prussian ambassador to Constantinople. The painting, one of 224 in the two volumes, shows a high-ranking woman of the Ottoman court wearing an elaborate costume in several layers. Beneath her robe, or entari, she wears a sheer white undershirt (gömlek) and long, baggy orange trousers ( salvar). Her flowered entari has a low-cut bodice and long sleeves, and is closed by a series of elaborate silver buttons and a silver buckled belt worn below the waist. She also wears a second entari, which is short-sleeved and trimmed with fur. On her head is a large bejewelled turban, and she wears a quantity of other jewelry.
‘Sultane en galla,’ from the two-volume work entitled Costumes Turc produced ca. 1790 supposedly for the Prussian ambassador to Constantinople. The painting, one of 224 in the two volumes, shows a high-ranking woman of the Ottoman court wearing an elaborate costume in several layers. Beneath her robe, or entari, she wears a sheer white undershirt (gömlek) and long, baggy orange trousers ( salvar). Her flowered entari has a low-cut bodice and long sleeves, and is closed by a series of elaborate silver buttons and a silver buckled belt worn below the waist. She also wears a second entari, which is short-sleeved and trimmed with fur. On her head is a large bejewelled turban, and she wears a quantity of other jewelry.
'Grecque ou Armenienne,' from Costumes Turc. With her white gömlek, orange salvar, entari, second robe, and turban,the woman depicted here is wearing a less elaborate version of the court costume seen in Figure 1. Her entari is white with gold trim, with a blue embroidered shawl worn as a sash. Over this she is wearing a gold-trimmed pink garment with three quarter length sleeves. Her headdress is trimmed with flowers instead of jewels, and for ornament she wears a black ribbon at her neck. As this illustration indicates, the non-Muslim women of Constantinople wore clothing very similar to their Muslim counterparts. They could be distinguished outdoors by the color of their Muslim counterparts. They could be distinguished outdoors by the color of their head covering and their footwear. In the 19th century, Greek and Armenian women seem to have adopted European clothing more readily than Muslim women; Jewish women, on the other hand, seem to have been slower to discard the traditional costume.
‘Grecque ou Armenienne,’ from Costumes Turc. With her white gömlek, orange salvar, entari, second robe, and turban,the woman depicted here is wearing a less elaborate version of the court costume seen in Figure 1. Her entari is white with gold trim, with a blue embroidered shawl worn as a sash. Over this she is wearing a gold-trimmed pink garment with three quarter length sleeves. Her headdress is trimmed with flowers instead of jewels, and for ornament she wears a black ribbon at her neck. As this illustration indicates, the non-Muslim women of Constantinople wore clothing very similar to their Muslim counterparts. They could be distinguished outdoors by the color of their Muslim counterparts. They could be distinguished outdoors by the color of their head covering and their footwear. In the 19th century, Greek and Armenian women seem to have adopted European clothing more readily than Muslim women; Jewish women, on the other hand, seem to have been slower to discard the traditional costume.

In recent years, scholars in a variety of disciplines have turned their attention to the Middle East of the 19th century. My own art historical research was on tradi­tional Ottoman women’s dress as a means of studying 19th century Ottoman society. Understanding such issues as how the dress of women changed, who were the fashion leaders, whether European dress was adopted at the same rate by rich and poor, Muslim and non-Muslim, and which parts of the traditional costume were the first to be discarded can reveal a great deal about the relationships among various groups in that society and the process of westernization that went on throughout the century. Given the paucity of systematically collected and reliably recorded ex­amples of 19th century costume, I looked for evidence wherever I could find it. In order to use that evidence properly, however, I had to understand both the contexts in which it was recorded and the audiences for which it was in­tended.

Biases in the Evidence

Much of the material document­ing the 19th century Middle East is European or American in origin. Europeans and Americans from all walks of life—scholars, wealthy travelers, politicians, artists, gover­nesses, itinerant photographers, journalists—visited the Middle East and recorded their experiences in a variety of media. Travel literature, contemporary newspapers and other writing, book illustrations, photographs, paintings, and travel albums all provide evidence of how these visitors viewed their sur­roundings. The dramatic increase in the quantity of such goods re­flects an equally dramatic increase in the number of foreigners who visited or resided temporarily in Constantinople in that century (see box on Tourism).

The use of these sources as his­toric documents is problematical. When the material concerning a specific place, for example Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was called throughout the 19th century), is examined, certain difficulties emerge. First of all, since the focus of much of it is on the European or foreigner’s experiences in the city, only the Ottomans with whom the visitors or foreign residents would have come into contact appear in their depictions. Detailed descrip­tions of people, dress, and social customs are almost entirely res­tricted to the wealthy elite of the city, with only passing references to other groups. Secondly, it is essential to acknowledge the extent to which the impressions of foreign visitors in any part of the Middle East were shaped by their expec­tations. Secure in their belief in the superiority of their own political systems, religion, and education, few European or American visitors questioned the ways in which the people and the physical setting of the Ottoman empire were depicted in travel writings, guidebooks, and illustrations. The stereotypes of lascivious and indolent harem wo­men, lazy workers, and backward or corrupt politicians living among the decrepit ruins of the past were accepted and perpetuated by most of the people who visited Con­stantinople. Some visitors were able to examine their surroundings with more of an open mind and their relative openness is reflected in their writing, but the deeply held social and religious convictions of the 19th century Europeans were impossible to shake, and inevitably colored their impressions of what they saw.

On the other hand, the descrip­tions of Ottoman women, both written and visual, produced by European and American visitors to Constantinople document a part of Ottoman society that is almost com­pletely ignored by other historical sources. With the exception of Ottoman women’s writings about themselves and the women’s maga­zines that began to appear toward the end of the last century, women rarely have a voice in the volu­minous documentation of the 19th century Ottoman empire. Despite the difficulties involved in using the material produced by Euro­peans and Americans, these sources help to illuminate an often hidden part of Ottoman society.

A Variety of Source Material

'Harem Women,' an illustration from the 1839 book, Character and Costume in Turkey and Italy, written and illustrated by Thomas Allom, a British architect. Allom's depiction of the dress of the women pictured of the dress of the women pictured is apparently drawn from his imagination. Although their costumes resembles, in a general way, what women actually wore (head covering, long robe, shorter jacket), in details of fabric pattern, lace trim, and headdress construction the costumes are completely unlike anything that survives in museum collections.
‘Harem Women,’ an illustration from the 1839 book, Character and Costume in Turkey and Italy, written and illustrated by Thomas Allom, a British architect. Allom’s depiction of the dress of the women pictured of the dress of the women pictured is apparently drawn from his imagination. Although their costumes resembles, in a general way, what women actually wore (head covering, long robe, shorter jacket), in details of fabric pattern, lace trim, and headdress construction the costumes are completely unlike anything that survives in museum collections.

Some of the 19th century mate­rial—newspapers and travel litera­ture—provides non-visual informa­tion concerning the city. At least four newspapers were published in Constantinople during most of the last century for the benefit of the European community residing there: The Levant Herald, Journal de Constantinople, La Turquie, and The Oriental Advertiser/Le Moniteur Oriental. Although none of the papers was illustrated, through their coverage of social events, as well as the advertise­ments they all carried, the news­papers give us a picture of the life of the European community of the city and the degree of social inter­action between Ottomans and Europeans. They also provide an idea of the goods available to both Europeans and wealthy Turks.

'Jeune Femme Turque,' unsigned photograph, perhaps by the French family firm, Bonfils, which was based in Beirut. A studio portrait of an unveiled young woman, it is difficullt to know whether this was a commissioned portrait which was later sold commercially, or a commercial photography of a model.
‘Jeune Femme Turque,’ unsigned photograph, perhaps by the French family firm, Bonfils, which was based in Beirut. A studio portrait of an unveiled young woman, it is difficullt to know whether this was a commissioned portrait which was later sold commercially, or a commercial photography of a model.

Nineteenth century travel litera­ture about the Ottoman empire takes a variety of forms, and the kind of information to be derived from it is to a large extent deter­mined by the category. Travel guides, for instance, are useful for learning how many European-style hotels and restaurants existed in Constantinople at any one time, which newspapers were available, and what sorts of goods were sold by the shops that catered to a European market. Memoirs of diplomats and politicians (who rarely, if ever, met any Turkish women) do not often have accurate descriptions of women’s lives, for instance, but they do describe the diplomatic affairs of the city and particularly the activities of the court. Books written by women are generally the most useful and reli­able for social history. A visit to a Turkish woman’s home, or harem, was considered an essential part of a trip to Constantinople, and most women somehow managed to get themselves invited to one. Their visits, often slow-moving social affairs in which eating and smoking were the main activities and chil­dren and clothes the main topics of conversation, are always described in detail and thus provide an invalu­able source of information about how Turkish women lived.

Other sorts of information are provided by visual sources. The earliest visual documentation of  the Ottoman empire appears in costume manuscripts, which were apparently produced for European visitors to Constantinople as a means of documenting some of what they saw in their travels. Dating from at least the 16th cen­tury, and continuing to be pro­duced into the 19th century until they were replaced by printed books, the illustrations vary in their attention to detail and their reli­ability, but provide examples of the clothing worn by members of various groups within Ottoman society (Figs. 1 and 2). The albums generally show one figure per page, with little background, and include the sultan and his court, religious and military officials, street ven­ders, women, and representative examples from ethnic minorities.

In the 19th century the place of the costume manuscripts was taken over by printed books, at first illustrated with poor copies of the manuscript paintings. As commer­cial printing methods became more sophisticated, these badly repro­duced copies were in turn replaced by books illustrated in a variety of techniques, including color litho­graphy. Produced either to illus­trate travel literature or as souvenir albums, the images depict both the city and its inhabitants (Fig. 3).

The illustrated books and albums were supplanted, to some extent at least, by the photographs that were available commercially in Constan­tinople within two decades of the invention of photography in 1839. Sold individually and in albums (and after a few decades, as post­cards people and places of Constanti­nople taken by commercial photo­graphers would seem to be an excellent source of information for social history (Fig. 4). However, even a cursory examination of these photographs reveals them not to be reliable. The photographs can rarely be dated accurately, and in any case, the images created by the photographers reflect a foreign vision of Ottoman life, a vision intended to appeal to the European tourists who were the primary patrons of the photographers (Fig. 5). The individual and family por­traits taken by the same photo­graphers for Ottoman subjects are potentially a much more reliable record of contemporary life.

Dames syriennes dans leur interieur, 'signed by Bonfils. This view of two young girls, drinking coffee and smoking and being waited on by a young boy, was created in the studio of the photographer using children as models, and is clearly the product of the imagination of the photographer.
Dames syriennes dans leur interieur, ‘signed by Bonfils. This view of two young girls, drinking coffee and smoking and being waited on by a young boy, was created in the studio of the photographer using children as models, and is clearly the product of the imagination of the photographer.

Nineteenth century paintings are less numerous than photographs and present a different view of the people of Constantinople. For European painters interested in Oriental subjects, as they were known then, Constantinople was a popular destination, and depictions of harem women found a wide audience. The Orientalist painters often executed their work in pains­ taking detail, providing at first glance excellent visual documenta­tion of 19th century clothing, in­teriors, and lifestyle (Fig. 6). The works of the French artist Jean-Leon Jerome (1824-1904) and of John Frederick Lewis, a British painter, are particularly good examples of this deceptively realistic style of painting. However, as with commercial photographs, a careful study of the Orientalist paintings reveals that they should not be used for documenting contemporary fashion, furnishings, or even Otto­man life generally. The painters were particularly interested in ro­mantic or exotic images that cap­tured the Orient of their imaginal-Lions, not the Ottoman empire as it existed in the second half of the 19th century. The European-style dress legislated for men in 1829 and adopted by many Ottoman women by the 1860s does not appear in the work of the Orientalist painters, for instance, nor do any of the many aspects of contemporary Ottoman life that reflected the growing influence of European technology or architectural style.

From the mid-1800s onward, a number of Ottoman artists began to work in a European style, painting on canvas with oils. They chose a variety of subjects, al­though landscape and still life were among the most popular. One of the most well known of the Otto­man painters is Osman Hamdi (1842-1910), the director of the Archaeological Museum in Constan­tinople and also the first director of the newly founded School of Fine Arts from 1883 until 1908. He spent 12 years in Europe, perhaps study­ing at some point in the studio of Gérome himself. A great deal of his work resembles that of the Orien­talist painters, and he often painted women in the harem (Fig. 7). Much of his work reflects his interest in recording aspects of traditional Ottoman life, but he also painted portraits of women in contempo­rary dress (Fig. 8). Osman Hamdi’s work is thus of more use for social history (and costume history) than much of 19th century painting, not least because as a Turk, Hamdi would have had a much better acquaintance with what Ottoman women actually wore and how they lived. His European counterparts would rarely, if ever, have met any Turkish women, and must have used Greeks models.

A Nineteenth Century Souvenir Album

'Hhareem Life—Constaninople.' John Frederick Lewis, ca. 1857. Lewis (1805-1876) was the friend of another well known British Orientalist, David Roberts. He traveled in Greece and Turkey in 1840, and then spent a decade living in Cairo. Lewis's work was well recieved when he exhibited it in France and England following his return from Cairo. This painting done perhaps 17 years after Lewis's visit to Turkey, was clearly done from notes, sketches, and the artist's memory. Many of the Orientalist painters brought quantities of props such as clothing, furniture, textiles, and other objects back with them in order to recreate the Orient of their memories in their studios.
‘Hhareem Life—Constaninople.’ John Frederick Lewis, ca. 1857. Lewis (1805-1876) was the friend of another well known British Orientalist, David Roberts. He traveled in Greece and Turkey in 1840, and then spent a decade living in Cairo. Lewis’s work was well recieved when he exhibited it in France and England following his return from Cairo. This painting done perhaps 17 years after Lewis’s visit to Turkey, was clearly done from notes, sketches, and the artist’s memory. Many of the Orientalist painters brought quantities of props such as clothing, furniture, textiles, and other objects back with them in order to recreate the Orient of their memories in their studios.

The tourists who purchased the travel books, picture albums, photographs, and paintings des­cribed here took their souvenirs home with them, and these objects may now be found in many Euro­pean and American libraries and museums. One such souvenir album is in the collection of the Rare Book Room of the Van Pelt Libarary of the University of Pennsylvania (Figs. 9-11, 13). Acquired by the library in 1889, the album of color lithographs entitled Stamboul: Sou­venir d’Orient was originally pur­chased by someone named B. Moore in May 1866 in Constanti­nople. The book contains 28 plates, most of which show two or three figures in an outdoor setting, done by a Maltese artist named Amadeo Preziosi.

Amadeo Preziosi (1816-1882) was born into a high-ranking Maltese family. Although his father wanted him to study law, Preziosi pursued his own interests in art, first in Paris and then in Constantinople where he settled, probably sometime in the early 1840s. He and his Greek wife lived in the section of the city called Pera (see box on Tourism). It is clear from the quantities of Preziosi’s work that survive in pub­lic and private collections that his drawings and watercolors were in great demand (Llewellyn 1985). Much of his early work was done on commission, but he also seems to have done a great number of sketches and paintings because the subjects interested him. In his first decade in Constantinople, Preziosi painted portraits either of indivi­duals (Fig. 12) or types, such as a barber or a bread-seller. These early works, many of which are just sketches, are sensitive, detailed representations of actual people. Some include a background, while others show only the figure, with most attention given to the face and dress of the sitter.

By the mid-1850s, Preziosi was very well known among the Euro­pean community of Constantino­ple. Visits to his studio were an important part of many tourists’ itineraries, and are often mentioned in the published accounts of their journeys. Mrs. Edmund Horuby, the wife of a British official, who lived in Constantinople for several years, writes of a day in 1856, “We looked in at Signor Preziosi’s on our way home and admired his beautiful sketches of this place, groups in the bazaars, and fine old fountains” (Hornby 1863:157). A similar visit is described by Lady Anne Brassey, a British woman who visited Constantinople twice, in 1874 and 1878 (see Brassey 1880: 101).

'Girl Placing a Vase.' Osman Hamdi, 1881. Hamdi (1842-1910), one of the most well known of the late 19th century Ottoman painters, spent many years in Europe studying painting, and worked in a style similar to many of the Orientalist painters who visited the MiddleEast. This painting is like many of Osman Hamdi's work depicting harem women in its calm reflection of household routine and attention to details of dress and setting to details of dress and setting. Because he was himself a Turk, Hamdi's paintings are based on direct observations of people and settings unavailable to European artists.
‘Girl Placing a Vase.’ Osman Hamdi, 1881. Hamdi (1842-1910), one of the most well known of the late 19th century Ottoman painters, spent many years in Europe studying painting, and worked in a style similar to many of the Orientalist painters who visited the MiddleEast. This painting is like many of Osman Hamdi’s work depicting harem women in its calm reflection of household routine and attention to details of dress and setting to details of dress and setting. Because he was himself a Turk, Hamdi’s paintings are based on direct observations of people and settings unavailable to European artists.

Perhaps it was because of the increasing demand for his work that Preziosi went to Paris in the late 1850s in order to supervise the publication of a volume of his Constantinople sketches. The ori­ginal album, Stamboul Recollec­tion of Eastern Life, had 29 litho­graphs and was published in 1858 by Lemercier. There is no litho­grapher’s signature on any of the  plates, an indication that Preziosi himself may have done the work, as is held by family tradition (Llewellyn 1985:10). The book, which was sold in Europe as well as in Constantinople, was success­ful enough to be reprinted a num­ber of times.

The subjects of the illustrations are identified by French titles on the table of contents, which is at the back of the book. Many of the titles describe the social types that visitors to the city would have expected to see: Ecrivan public (Letter-writer; Fig. 9), Derviches mendiant (Begging dervishes), Eu­nuque du serail (Palace eunuch), Les Grecs (Greeks; Fig. 10), and Le Porter de l’eau (The waterseller). All of the plates include some background or setting for the figures, but seven of the pictures carry titles that describe the place, not the people, depicted. Several of this group illustrate the same subjects that had been appearing in travel literature for several dec­ades, and thus would have, been familiar to visitors before they even arrived in the city: Le Bosphore (The Bosporus), Cimetière (Ceme­tery), and Interieur d’un café (Cafe interior). Others show shops in the covered bazaar, which was perhaps the single most popular spot for tourists to visit. Although the title of only one picture specifically refers to women (Dames Turques a la promenade/Turkish women taking a stroll), women appear in more than half of the illustrations. In several cases they are the main subject, for instance, Les eaux douces (The sweet waters; Fig. 13) and La tasse de cafe (The cup of coffee; (Fig. 11). Women figure more or less prominently in many illustrations of other subjects: Ecrz-van public (Fig. 9), Les Grecs (Fig. 10), Bazar des soieries (Silk ba­zaar), and Juifs (Jews), among others. The 28 plates of the album are thus a collection of the people and places that most tourists would have seen or hoped to see.

The illustrations share a common style. The light brown paper of the original watercolors and the bright, harmonious colors together give the compositions a warm air. The artist includes a great deal of detail in each image, but there are no sharp lines or harsh contours. The soft light and shadow, flowing gar­ments, and relaxed, often lan­guorous poses add to the romantic impressions that the pictures create.

'Woman with Mimosa.' Osman Hamdi, 1906. A portrait of a pensive, middle-aged woman wearing a lace-trimmed dress of European design beneath the lack carsaf adopted by Istanbul women for street wear in the last years of the 19th century. Unlike his European counterparts, Hamdi painted scenes of contemporary Ottoman life, as well as re-creations of older life styles.
‘Woman with Mimosa.’ Osman Hamdi, 1906. A portrait of a pensive, middle-aged woman wearing a lace-trimmed dress of European design beneath the lack carsaf adopted by Istanbul women for street wear in the last years of the 19th century. Unlike his European counterparts, Hamdi painted scenes of contemporary Ottoman life, as well as re-creations of older life styles.

According to the title page, Stam­boul: Souvenir d’Orient was pub­lished in Paris in 1865 by Lemercier, a prestigious publisher in mid-century Paris. It appears to be a reprint of an 1861 album of the same title, which is in turn ap­parently a reprint of Preziosi’s first album of lithographs, Stamboul Recollections of Eastern Life, also published by Lermercier in Paris, in 1858. The original book had one additional image, Juardhouse, that does not appear in the later ver­sions, but otherwise the books are virtually the same. Preziosi’s work was again reprinted in 1883, when it was brought out by CansOn Librarie-Editeur of Paris as Stam­boul: Moeurs et Costumes, number seven in the Encyclopédie des Arts Decoratifs de l’Orient. Lemercier also published Preziosi’s views of Cairo as Souvenir du Caire in cab. 1863; this too appeared again in the 1883 Encyclopédie (Llewellyn 1985:55). 

The publication of Preziosi’s al­bums was a commercial under­taking, intended to appeal to tourists and armchair travelers. The views of Constantinople that ap­pear in the albums differ from Preziosi’s other work. The sensitive depiction of individuals has been replaced by a more lively and dramatic representation of types that sometimes approaches carica­ture. The empty background of the sketch has become a fully de­veloped setting for the figures, so that the scene is much more com­plete. The images included in the album (figure types, landscapes, and many women) have all been chosen to conform to contempo­rary European or American images of Constantinople.

Preziosi’s scenes of Constan­tinople are of interest for two rea­sons. First of all, despite the ob­vious concessions to the romantic or picturesque in his lithographs, his work is fairly accurate. Since Preziosi made his home in Con­stantinople and was related by marriage to the Jreek community of the city, he would have been able to see much that would not have been accessible to many of the other foreign artists working at the same time. Secondly, the varied nature of his work and the amount of it that has survived allow a very instructive comparison to be made between the sketches and portraits he did on commission or for him­self, and the more commercial lithographs. The differences in style and subject matter between the two groups are indicative of the extent to which an artistic image is shaped by the audience for which it is intended. Preziosi’s lithographs depict the same subjects that had appeared in numerous books of the same time and earlier, in a style that was intended to satisfy the expectations of the purchasers of the albums.

Nineteenth Century Images as Historic ­Documents

'Ecrivan public.' Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1857. The works of Amadeo Preziosi, a Maltese artist who settled in Constantinople and married a Greek woman, became very popular among the European community of the city. His depictions of Constantinople and its inhabitants were published in a number of albums intended as souvenirs for visitors.
‘Ecrivan public.’ Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1857. The works of Amadeo Preziosi, a Maltese artist who settled in Constantinople and married a Greek woman, became very popular among the European community of the city. His depictions of Constantinople and its inhabitants were published in a number of albums intended as souvenirs for visitors.
'Les Grecs.' Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1857. Although Preziosi was generally more interested in depicting an unchanging Constantinople, in this view of a group of Ottoman Greeks the woman in the crowd is wearing what is clearly a European-style costume.
‘Les Grecs.’ Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1857. Although Preziosi was generally more interested in depicting an unchanging Constantinople, in this view of a group of Ottoman Greeks the woman in the crowd is wearing what is clearly a European-style costume.

Scholars of 19th century Constan­tinople, and indeed of the 19th century Middle East more gener­ally, are fortunate in having a very large quantity of contemporary documentation by European and American artists and writers with which to work. The range of mate­rial available for a study of wo­men’s dress, for instance, can be duplicated for many other fields. However, as this review of the 19th century documentation of the Otto­man women of Constantinople is intended to show, the use of con­temporary images of the Middle East as historic documents must be carried out with extreme caution. Written descriptions and visual representations often reflect the preconceived notions of the writer or artists or the expectations of the audience. They may also be com­plete fabrications, in either the part or the whole.

But if some of this material turns out to be less than useful in the investigation of a specific aspect of Ottoman social history, it is of use in another way. As documentation of the ways in which Europe and America looked at, described, and interpreted the Middle East in a period of rapidly increasing contact between the two cultures, the con­temporary material provides unique information about the per­petuation of stereotypes, the changing images of an unfamiliar society, the effects of contact be­tween the two cultures, and other issues critical to the study of cul­tural interaction and social change.

Tourism in 19th Century Constantinople

The rising popularity of Constan­tinople as a tourist destination is due to several factors. The most important of these is the beginning of regular steamship service to the Ottoman empire from European port cities. The first steamship arrived in Constantinople in 1828. By the mid-1830s the ships serving the city were fairly numerous, and by 1844 a British tourist could choose between five different routes to get there. The Russians, Austrians, and French also had service to Constantinople. There was a substantial expansion of both diplomatic and commercial con­tacts between the Ottoman empire and European powers during the 19th century, which led to a larger resident European community in Constantinople, as well as to in­creased tourism.

'La tasse de cafe.' Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1857. Entitled 'The Cup of Coffee,' most viewers have to look carefully to find the tiny cup in this view of women at home.
‘La tasse de cafe.’ Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1857. Entitled ‘The Cup of Coffee,’ most viewers have to look carefully to find the tiny cup in this view of women at home.
'Portrait of a Woman,' Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1843. Perhaps a portrait of a relative of Preziosi's wife, although this is not known for sure. This relatively early work of Preziosi reveals a closer relationship between artist and subject, and is a more personal presentation of the sitter than later the later album pieces.
‘Portrait of a Woman,’ Amadeo Preziosi, ca. 1843. Perhaps a portrait of a relative of Preziosi’s wife, although this is not known for sure. This relatively early work of Preziosi reveals a closer relationship between artist and subject, and is a more personal presentation of the sitter than later the later album pieces.

European visitors to the city generally stayed in Pera, the district of Constantinople in which most of the foreign embassies and churches were located. Pera was also the area of the city in which the hotels, restaurants, and shops that catered to Europeans could be found. Although nearly all tourists crossed the Golden Horn to the old city of Stamboul in order to sight-see and shop in the Grand Bazaar, they were also able to acquire souvenirs from the photographers’ studios, bookstores, and artists’ studios located near their hotels in Pera.

'Les eaux douces.' Amadeo Preziosi, ca, 1857. Excursions to the Sweet Waters, a park along the Bosporus, were popular among both Ottoman and Europeans. Depictions of Ottoman women enjoying an outing to the Sweet Waters were included in nearly every illustrated travel book about Constantinople published during the 19th century, and Preziosi too included the subject in his selection of views.
‘Les eaux douces.’ Amadeo Preziosi, ca, 1857. Excursions to the Sweet Waters, a park along the Bosporus, were popular among both Ottoman and Europeans. Depictions of Ottoman women enjoying an outing to the Sweet Waters were included in nearly every illustrated travel book about Constantinople published during the 19th century, and Preziosi too included the subject in his selection of views.

Cite This Article

Micklewright, Nancy. "Looking at the Past." Expedition Magazine 32, no. 1 (March, 1990): -. Accessed February 25, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/looking-at-the-past/


This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to digitalmedia@pennmuseum.org.