This remarkable view, seen from the Sea of Marmara looking north up the Bosphoros, is an extremely early portrayal of the great city of Constantinople as seen through the eyes of an European artist. It is tempting to speculate that Monamy is recording a specific event, perhaps the arrival of ambassadors judging by the flurry of activity, but the lack of any date on his canvas makes any such hypothesis impossible to verify. What is certain is that the appearance of Dutch and English warships in the Bosphoros in the early eighteenth century would have been cause for considerable excitement in the city and the two galleys flying Ottoman colours could be running out to greet them officially.
The Ottoman Empire's relationship with Europe had been a turbulent one for centuries culminating in the unsuccessful Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683. This marked the Turks' furthermost western encroachment into European territory and even though their army was decisively defeated on that occasion, their territorial ambitions remained highly suspect well into the next century. For a long period there was little direct contact with the European powers and this painting might well signify a change in western attitudes and a realisation that the enormous potential for trade with Turkey and her dominions throughout the Middle East was one to be grasped without further delay.
Christie's would like to thank Dr Lyn Rodley, in addition to Mr Michael Naxton, for her invaluable assistance in catologuing this lot