Fausto Zonaro was born in Padua on 18 September 1854. He began painting as a child, and was immediately lauded for his talents which brought him acclaim as early as his schooling at both the Verona Academy of Fine Arts and at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Rome. His first exhibition opened in 1885, was well received, and in 1888 a new exhibition of his work was held in Paris. Interested in the Orient since childhood, Zonarto made his first visit to Istanbul in 1891. He described the city as heaven on earth, and decided to stay. His first paintings of Istanbul quickly won him renown in his adopted home.
Around that time, the news that the Turkish warship Ertugrul was destined to sail for Japan sent a wave of excitement through Istanbul. For her send-off officers stood on deck in dazzling dress uniform, and the ship set sail as a band played on the quayside and the crowds cheered. Zonaro was greatly moved by this scene, which he painted and presented as a gift to Sultan Abdülhamid. The sultan was so impressed that he appointed Zonaro court painter with the title of Painter to His Majesty the Sultan, and presented him with an imperial decoration. Replacing his hat with a fez, Zonaro embarked on an illustrious career.
Few cities have been served so faithfully by an artist as Istanbul by Zonaro. Between his arrival as a thirty-seven-year-old artist from the Veneto, to his departure in 1910, he painted over a thousand pictures of the city. Few aspects of Istanbul eluded his energetic brush. He painted dervishes, beggars, street barbers, public scribes, firemen and fishermen. His landscapes included views of Üsküdar, Kumkapi, Besiktas and many other districts of the city, and he also depicted scenes from the great religious festivals of Bayram and Muharram. As befits the painter of a maritime city, however, Zonaro excelled at seascapes. Masts and minarets, smoke and mist, sails and clouds, light and water blended into some of the most evocative representations of Istanbul as in the example of the present lot.
We are grateful to Erol Makzume for confirming the authenticity of this work.