London, Spink's, Visions of the Orient, 1995, no 11
Lewis' recent arrival in Istanbul in October 1840 was recorded by his fellow artist, Sir David Wilkie, who noted admiringly, 'He has been making most clever drawings, as usual'. Lewis remained there for over a year, responding to the colour and variety of the city's people and places. His fascination with the bustle of modern city life in conjunction with its architectural heritage is evident in many sketches, remarkable both for their fluency of execution and acuteness of observation; they are far removed from the stereotypical views of the city popularised by prints in earlier Western publications. This drawing of the interior of a coffee house is an exceptionally fine example. It shows a typical kahvehane, a wooden structure with ornate, European-influenced decoration, including carved furnishings and painted tiles, as well as traditional Turkish textiles; in the foreground, hot water in metal jugs is being heated over a brazier. The room is frequented by middle-class men of the city, most of them wearing a fez, following recent decrees by the Sultan modernising the dress of Ottoman citizens.
A similar but less developed version of this scene, possibly a study, is in the British Museum, but the composition is not related to any of Lewis's known finished watercolours or oil paintings.
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