During the 18th and 19th century the westernisation in the Ottoman Empire gained momentum. The Sultans started to reside in the palaces which were built in rococo or baroque styles, the Ottoman officials started to wear trousers and jackets, the visibility of Ottoman women and men mixing together in public spaces grew. While this was the case within the empire, it was the time of exploration of the orient by occidentals. Therefore, Istanbul became a popular destination for Western travellers who often wrote travelogues centred on the Ottoman Empire. These travelogues usually contained a great amount of engravings which occupied an important position on making the westerns acquainted with eastern culture.
Here are some of the most famous engravings illustrating the Constantinople during the 18th and 19th century.
Coffee-houses were first opened in the Tahtakale neighbourhood by two merchants of Arab origin, were Hakem of Aleppo and Sems of Damascus. They became a place for socializing and remained popular within the empire for centuries. Ottoman coffee-houses were extremely important and very popular so that Amedeo Preziosi didn’t skip drawing it. However, it is obvious that he used his imagination on this painting because there was no way for a woman working in a coffee-house in the Ottoman times. Honestly, this is not an unexampled as many of Western artists used their imagination on their works, especially on their harem paintings.
Since its establishment, Grand Bazaar has always been of great interest to Western artists such that you can’t find any travelogue that doesn’t contain a text and engraving of this bazaar. This is because of the oldest and biggest covered market in the world which offered an incredible visual richness and diversity, which can also be found in the work of Maltese painter Amedeo Preziosi. The clothing of Ottoman people is evident in the painting as well.
Antoine Ignace Melling was a German artist and traveller who moved to Istanbul in 1784 and worked as an imperial architect to Sultan Selim III. In his life in Istanbul, he made many detailed drawings of the sultan’s palace, Ottoman life as well as Constantinople itself and its environs. His works on Constantinople was published as “Voyage pittoresque de Constantinople et des rives du Bosphore”. This work by him is one of the most beautiful engravings as the architectural beauty of the Fountain of Mahmud I is very evident. However, not only the architectural beauty makes this engraving unique but also Melling included several social scenes in this work.
Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk claims in his book “Istanbul: Memories and the City” that Melling saw the city like an Istanbulian but painted it like a clear-eyed Western. Probably, no one would disagree with Orhan Pamuk. In this engraving, you see a beautiful view of Constantinople during the beginning of 19th century. At that time, Istanbul was called “the city of minarets” and Melling obviously wanted to show this to the westerns with his engraving.
You may not believe this but here is Taksim where is the most popular art, entertainment and night-life centre. In this engraving by the German artist, you see the Pera Gardens which was opened as Istanbul’s first public garden. As it is understood, this area was known for entertainment even in the 18th century. A view of Bosporus and the existence of a coffee-house where people could drink a Turkish coffee can be seen in the engraving too.
Thomas Allom was British architect and illustrator who arrived in Istanbul in 1834 and produced hundreds of drawings centred the sultan’s city. His work on Istanbul was published as “Constantinople and the Scenery of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor” in 1838. This drawing of him is one of his most popular works on Istanbul as the work shows the interior of the Hagia Sophia during the prayer time.
Kuleli Military High School was built in the 1840’s by the orders of Sultan Mahmud II after the abolishment of the Janissary corps in 1826. Unfortunately, only a few years later the towers of this beautiful building on the Asian shore of the Bosporus were destroyed because of the fire disaster. Almost 100 years the building stood without towers despite its name “Kuleli”. However, the engraving of Kuleli Military High School by Thomas Allom was so impressive that the government was convinced to rebuild towers in 1965 and the work of construction ended in 1968.
Eugene Flandin is French orientalist painter who produced many numbers of great paintings of Constantinople during the 19th century. His interest was the important monuments in the city so each of his work shows one of the Istanbul’s monuments such as Süleymaniye Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Beyazıd Mosque and Eyüp Mosque. This work which is called “Pont de Bateaux” shows the first Galata Bridge which was constructed in 1845 by the mother of Sultan Abdülmecid and used for 18 years. It was also known as the Cisr-i Cedid or New Bridge as there was another old one further up the Golden Horn.
Obviously, Eugene Flandin also visited the Asian part of the city. This work of him shows us the port of Üsküdar. In the background, there are Üsküdar’s best-known landmarks; the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, also known as İskele Mosque or Jetty Mosque, which was designed by architect Sinan, and the fountain of Ahmet III, the 18th century public water, built in Ottoman rococo style.
In this engraving of Eugene Flandin, the focus is the Yeni Cami, meaning New Mosque in English. Originally named New Valide Sultan Mosque, New Mosque was the most popular mosque in Istanbul during the 19th century. Famous Spice Bazaar, Istanbul’s one of the most popular tourist attraction, was also built as a part of New Mosque complex. There was a busy market in the courtyard of this beautiful mosque, but however Eugene Flandin passed over this market as we can see only a few people.
Joseph Schranz is Austrian painter, the son of the painter Anton Schranz, who is known for his snapshots from everyday life in Istanbul during the 19th century. In this painting of him, you can see the traditional Ottoman cemetery, possibly at Üsküdar, and the variety of tombstones with motifs that provides information about the deceased.
This engraving of Joseph Schranz is one of his most beautiful works with great details. In this engraving, Dolmabahçe Palace was portrayed in detail. Beside the sultan’s palace and the Bosporus, you can notice the apparel of ordinary Ottoman people as well as the waterside mansions on the Asian shore.
There’s no great information about the Italian painter Jean Brindesi. What we know about him is that he produced two great albums namely “Toures de Constantinople” and “Souvenir de Constantinople” which centred the life in Constantinople and the clothing of Ottoman officials such as sultan, the Janissaries and Kapudan Pasha (admiral). The artist died in Istanbul on 7 May of 1888. In this engraving of him, you can see the court of Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque at Tophane and in the background Nusretiye Mosque.
Jean-Baptiste Mour was a Flemish-French painter who is remembered for his portrayal of Constantinople during the Tulip Era in the Ottoman history. He was also asked to record Dutch ambassador’s audience with Sultan Ahmed III on canvas so he was in the palace during the ceremonies. In this painting, the grand vizier Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha crosses the hippodrome. The interesting thing in this painting is the appearance of the Blue Mosque.
Charles Pertusier is French artillery officer and one of the suite of the French Embassy at the Ottoman Porte. He is best known for his engravings as well as the travelogue book “Promenedas Pittoresques dans Constantinople et sur les rives du Bosphore” (1815). This is one of his most famous engravings which shows the Military Barracks in Taksim. You can also see the public fountain on the right and the Muslim cemetery on the left of the Military Barracks.
My name is Saad Waqar (you can call me Saadi), a full-time adventure travel blogger who’s been exploring the different parts of the world for over 5 years. I started to travel when I was 19 with my first tour to Middle-East.