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Louis-Nicolas de Lespinasse (1734-1808)
Louis-Nicolas de Lespinasse (1734-1808)

The Reception of an Ambassador by the Grand Vizier at Topkapi Palace, Constantinople.

Details
Louis-Nicolas de Lespinasse (1734-1808)
The Reception of an Ambassador by the Grand Vizier at Topkapi Palace, Constantinople.
signed with initials and dated 'd.L. 1790.'
black chalk, pen and brown ink, watercolour, bodycolour
253 x 391 mm.

Lot Essay

This and the following lot show two consecutive moments of an ambassador's reception at the Court of the Ottoman Sultan in the 18th Century. The strict protocol surrounding the Reception of an Ambassador by the Grand Vizier followed by his Presentation to the Sultan hardly changed over the centuries. As soon as an Ambassador reached in procession Topkapi Palace the Grand Vizier sent a messenger warning the Sultan of the ambassador's arrival. The present drawing represents the moment when the ambassador meets with the Grand Vizier. It was usually followed by a meal served around small tables which explains the presence of a servant entering the room on the left with a large pile of cushions. The room in which the meeting is taking place overlooks the Golden Horn yet that room has never been identified although it is known through other documents, one of which is a bodycolour of a slightly later date by Antoine Laurent Castellan depicting the Reception of General Dubayet by the Grand Vizier. A Boppe Les Peintures de Bosphore au XVIIIéme siécle, 1989, p.271. It reveals that Lespinasse who never travelled to Constantinople had worked from earlier prototypes and decided to embellish the scene probably because he wanted to express a better sense of the location: he therefore added five more windows and a panoramic view over the Golden Horn; other images show however that it overlooked the Dome of a Mosque. The same idea has made the artist turn the Islamic woodpanelling into a Parisian Rococco boiseries. The irony of such a misinterpretation is that under the Reign of Sultan Selim III (1789-1808) one of the rooms at Topkapi Palace had been redocorated in a French style to include boiseries decorated with landscapes. The elegance of the scene is reminiscent of the large drawings by Charles- Nicolas Cochin for the Reception of Saïd Pacha by King Louis XV in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, A.Boppe. op.cit., p. 148. Just like Guardi had used Jean Baptiste Van Moor Scenes from the Seraglio to create his own compostions, Lespinasse reconstructs scenes from older and often more naive images and executes them in the style of drawings commissioned in the 1740's and 1750's by Les Menus Plaisirs de Roi to celebrate the festivals and events of the Court of Versailles. Such reference to the past is further emphasized by the similarity of the ambassador's features in the drawings to the ones of Comte de Vergennes in a pair of pictures of the same subject given to Antoine de Favray sold at Sotheby's, London, 8 October 1996, lot 232. Drawn in 1790 these views do not illustrate a particular event. The Comte de Choiseul Gouffier who had arrived in 1784 did not leave Constantinople before 1792.
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