Lot 34
  • 34

Rudolf Ernst

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
93,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Rudolf Ernst
  • The Fountain of Ahmed III, Constantinople
  • signed R. Ernst. lower right
  • oil on panel


Charles & Mary Shapiro, New York (purchased in circa 1934)
Anita Shapiro, Palm Beach, Florida (by 1977, by descent from the above); thence by descent
Private collection, New York

Catalogue Note

This painting reprises the composition of the larger version sold for a record price at Sotheby's New York in 2008 (fig. 1).

Set just outside the gates of Constantinople's Topkapı Palace, the fountain of Ahmed III was built in 1728-9, during the Tulip Era (so-called because of the popularity of this flower and the flourishing of the arts in the Ottoman Empire between 1718 and 1730). There are water taps set into the shallow niches on each of the four sides, and at each corner is a sebil, or kiosk, where drinking water was dispensed in cups to passers-by. Each sebil has three tall windows which, as Ernst's painting attests, are covered with elaborate bronze lattices. Erected across the city as acts of charity by notable families, these monuments soon became the favourite gathering places of traders, travellers, and townspeople.

Ernst travelled to Constantinople in the 1870s and would have been familiar with this - even at that time - famous site. However, like other Orientalists, notably Jean-Léon Gérôme, he would have been reliant on photographs and prints to complete his paintings in his Paris studio. Among the best-known published images of the fountain are those by James Robertson (c. 1814-88), an engraver at the Ottoman mint from the 1840s, as well as a painter and a photographer. Many of his photographs were exhibited in London and Paris; a photograph of the fountain of Ahmed III was shown at the 1855 Exposition Universelle. Ernst's interest in photography (as a collector of photographs and an amateur photographer himself) may help to explain the 'snap-shot' cropping and arrangement of the present composition.