Fausto Zonaro arrived in Constantinople in 1891 but it was not until 1896 that he was appointed official painter to the court of Sultan Abdulhamit II. Zonaro's introduction to the Ottoman Sultan was expedited by the Italian Ambassador Panza and arranged by the Superintendent of Protocol Münir Bey. The court's resident artist, Luigi Acquarone, had passed away only a few months prior creating a well-timed vacancy, and Zonaro's recently completed work Ertugrul Cavalry Regiment had earned him great acclaim. Zonaro remained in this position until the overthow of the Sultan in 1909. During this time Zonaro not only befriended many members or the Imperial family, but he was commissioned to execute numerous family protraits, historical paintings for the decorations of the many palaces. He even worked at the Yildiz Porcelain Factory along with outstanding Turkish artists such as Hoca Ali Riza, Seker Ahmed Pasha, Ömer Adil Bey and Hüseyin Zakai Bey.
During his time in Constantinople, Zonaro also worked independently of his Imperial commissions and produced a number of works depicting the everyday life in this fascinatingly cosmopolitan Ottoman capital. The present work is a tour de force of Zonaro's more private commissions during his stay in this city. The well-dressed Turkish lady is seated by a window in her harem quarters proudly displaying the prominent positioning of her home along the shores of the Bosphorus and the fantastic views it commands.
(fig. 1) A photograph of the present painting in Fausto Zonaro's studio at the turn of the century.