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Devrim Erbil (Turkish, b. 1937)

View of the Golden Horn

Devrim Erbil (Turkish, b. 1937)
View of the Golden Horn
signed and dated 'Devrim 2009' (at the centre of the upper edge)
acrylic on canvas
47¼ x 70¾in. (120 x 180cm.)
Painted in 2009
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Lot Essay

The great beauty of the city of Istanbul, both natural and man-made, has inspired her artists for centuries. Panoramic views of Istanbul have a long history in Turkish art. From an early stage the Ottomans showed an interest in map-making, topographical views of cities and illustrations of buildings, which had few parallels in the other Islamic empires. This interest stems from the work of Matrakci Nasuh, one of the most significant figures of 16th century Turkey and active during the time of the Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. Originally from Bosnia, he was a janissary who applied himself first to mathematics, and then in the arts of combat, on which he wrote various training manuals. Matrakci Nasuh's most celebrated work was Beyan-i Menazil, a book of plans and descriptions, with 107 full page miniatures, illustrating the towns and cities on the army's eastward march on a campaign against Safavid Iran in 1533-36. Castles, mosques, khans, colleges and pavilions are shown in painstaking detail, together with their surrounding terrain. Although the miniatures are illustrations rather than maps- the features not shown to correct scale or even the correct positions- when taken together with the text descriptions they provide much the same detail given by topographical maps. The most famous minature by Matrakci Nasuh is one of Istanbul itself, kept in the library of the University of Istanbul (MS. 5964, ff. 8v-9r). This clearly shows the Golden Horn, Galata and a small part of Uskudar on the Asian side. Almost 300 houses and monuments are illustrated, with the major buildings shown on a larger scale which allows greater detail. Erbil's earlier views of Istanbul strongly recall Matrakci Nasuh's illustrations- jewel-like naturalistic colours with a similar combination of the bird's eye view and horizontal elevation. In his later paintings the perspective and proportions become more naturalistic, whilst the colouring becomes monochrome and expressive.

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