The painting of the Nippur excavations by Osman Hamdi Bey was inspired by a photograph by John Henry Haynes.
The painting of the Nippur excavations by Osman Hamdi Bey was inspired by a photograph by John Henry Haynes.

The 1889–1900 excavations at Nippur in Mesopotamia led to the founding of the Penn Museum. They were immortalized on canvas by the most famous painter of Ottoman Turkey, Osman Hamdi Bey, who, as an archaeologist and Director of the Imperial Ottoman Museum, knew of the subject first-hand. He made the painting for the University of Pennsylvania Museum in 1903, but it was forgotten in storage until the late 1980s. In 2008, it was put on display in the Museum Director’s office and later included in the traveling exhibition Archaeologists & Travelers in Ottoman Lands , along with a second painting by Hamdi Bey, “At the Mosque Door” (1891), purchased by the Museum in 1985. Both paintings returned to Turkey for a traveling exhibition loan to the Pera Museum in Istanbul in 2011.