Constantinople, the cradle of numerous cultures, was a muse for European artists during the 19th Century. Visiting artists, either realizing Royal commissions or carrying out their personal travels, have numerous times tried to depict the captivating effects and the extraordinary beauty of this poetic Ottoman city. Built on seven hills, with a deep blue sky that rests on its numerous minarettes and its Byzantine walls enveloping its palaces and monuments, the city of Constantinople was a source of inspiration as well as a wonder for Western travellers.
Ziem produced no less than 142 paintings of the Hagia Sophia, the Golden Horn, Bosphorus and Skudari, and about 20 paintings of fountains and sites on the Asian side of this marvellous city. In Ziem's paintings it is of notable importance that the artist frequently aims to communicate the light effects of the bright sun and the crisp sea of Constantinople rather than the wonders of its architectural accomplishments. In fact the present painting is one of a very few exceptions where Ziem places equal importance on the light as on the landscape, architecture and the naval elements. Most importantly, the present work is the largest compositions that Ziem ever produced of Constantinople. The artist's second largest composition, Sainte Sophie, Constantinople, was exhibited at the 1866 Paris Salon and today hangs at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.
After studying architecture in Dijon, Ziem worked as a surveyor on the construction of the Marseille canal, before his watercolours attracted the patronage of Ferdinand-Philippe, Duc d'Orléans. Although known principally for his views of Venice, which he visited on numerous occasions, he also painted in Constantinople, North Africa and the forest of Fontainebleau. His many foreign journeys included visits to Russia in 1843-4, the Middle East and North Africa at least five times between 1847 and 1859 and London in 1849 and 1852. Ziem enjoyed financial success during his lifetime and owned studios in Paris and Martigues in the South of France (now the location of the Musée Ziem).