View full screen - View 1 of Lot 24. Leander’s Tower on the Bosphorus.
24

Sanford Robinson Gifford

Leander’s Tower on the Bosphorus

Estimate:

60,000

to
- 80,000 USD

Sanford Robinson Gifford

Sanford Robinson Gifford

Leander’s Tower on the Bosphorus

Leander’s Tower on the Bosphorus

Estimate:

60,000

to
- 80,000 USD

Lot sold:

302,400

USD

Sanford Robinson Gifford

1823 - 1880

Leander’s Tower on the Bosphorus


signed S.R. Gifford (lower right); also signed again and titled (on the reverse)

oil on canvas laid down on canvas

canvas: 8 ⅜ by 16 ⅜ inches (21.3 by 41.6 cm)

framed: 19 ¼ by 27 ½ inches (48.9 by 69.9 cm)

Painted circa 1876.


We wish to thank Dr. Ila Weiss, the leading Sanford Robinson Gifford scholar, for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.

The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc., New York, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's:


This work on canvas has an old lining from the 19th Century and the stretcher also dates from this period. The paint layer is stable. The cracking is slightly raised. The surface is clean and lightly varnished. Retouches have been added to the extreme right edge in the lower right and there are a few dots on the left edge as well. The painting is in very good condition and can be hung as is.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

Private collection
By descent to the present owner
We are grateful to Dr. Ila Weiss for preparing the following essay:

This painting is closely related to the well-known exhibition piece of the same subject at the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts (18 ½ by 38 ½ in., dated 1876, Gifford Memorial Catalogue #645 as 23 by 42 in.), which was shown at the National Academy of Design in 1877 and listed by Gifford among his “Chief Pictures.” One other painting of Leander’s Tower (MC 644,13 by 27 in.) was exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association in 1878 (#67) and is currently on loan to the Fogg Art Museum. It is possible that the present work may be A Sketch on the Bosphorus (MC 661, sold in 1877), but the lack of specified dimensions and absence of Leander’s Tower in the title—despite its inscription on the verso—makes that identification far from certain.

Gifford spent less than a week in Constantinople in May 1869, describing it as “a vision of fairyland” with “towers and domes and minarets glittering and golden in the early sun.” Mainly in pencil, he sketched the clustered sails in its bustling port, and the skyline with its recognizable architectural features [Sketchbook of 1869 given to Richard Butler by Gifford’s heirs in 1887 and separated for sale by Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, in 1976]. He also drew the eighteenth century masonry replacement for a twelfth century watch tower known as Leander’s Tower or the Maiden’s Tower, referring to a local legend, using white chalk to emphasize the picturesque effect of morning light on its sculptural forms. The tower was viewed from on or near the shore of Uskudar on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Strait, opposite the mouth of the Golden Horn, accessible by boat.

Gifford’s general practice was to begin with pencil sketches and develop some of them in oils that progressively increase in size and refinement. The version of Leander’s Tower on the Bosphorus under consideration is intermediary between the pencil drawing, inscribed “Leander’s Tower—Bosphorus,” and the final version at the Fogg (and most likely the related mid-sized painting on loan there). It is quite close to the drawing, possibly the first painted version or more likely developed from a lost smaller study. The proportions of the tower are somewhat altered compared with the drawing, its height exaggerated and its base structure lowered to create a more graceful form. The city’s recognizable panorama, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the walls of the Seraglio, studied separately in the sketchbook, is suggested just to the right of the tower in the drawing. It is extended and shifted further to the right in the painting to relieve the featured structure against a minimal horizon line articulated with sails glinting pink in the morning light. A graceful rowed boat is added to the painting, closest to the viewer, suspended on the dimly glowing field of atmosphere and reflection, its passengers established with dabs of white and bright red. It represents the “luxurious but tottlish caique, pulled by a white-shirted, white-bearded, red fezzed, brawny rower,” that provided sightseeing from the water to the delighted artist. A more distant boat, with a brown sail in near silhouette against the subdued atmospheric glow, its occupants conjured by small dots of dull red and white, measures the recession into luminous haze. Perfectly representing Gifford’s style and intentions, the effect of light on the solid forms of the tower, indicated in the drawing, is now amplified with white impasto. Such relatively thickly painted accents, including mottled tints of yellows, pinks and reds of the structure’s stony walls and tile roofs, and the dabs of white and color on boats and figures, serve to emphasize their substance in contrast to the vaporous distance where more thinly painted, delicate lights on walls and domes penetrate the haze enticingly.

In keeping with Gifford’s practice, the exhibition piece further elaborates changes suggested by the smaller painting. Its tonality is lightened, its color more calculated, with hazy pink light obscuring the horizon, imperceptibly cooling toward gray-blue at the upper edge, reflected along the bottom edge. The tower is considerably stretched vertically and extended in reflection to the bottom edge to more forcefully intersect the still wider horizontal expanse. The space is deepened, with the sail boat and distant shore relatively smaller and the now haze obscured, glowing horizon sprinkled with more numerous light reflecting sails. A flying bird added near the center foreground dramatizes the spatial ambiguity. While anticipating such effects, the smaller painting retains the immediacy, intimacy and pleasure of the original penciled experience. When seen in Gifford’s studio in April 1876, the exhibition piece was described as “the view looking towards Stamboul and Seraglio Point; the Oriental craft, with their bright colored sails, floating dreamily on the calm waters, the picturesque tower with its odd signal apparatus, the warmth of color in the atmosphere and throughout the picture, making a rich and pleasing effect” (“Art News,“ Daily Graphic, New York, April 24, 1876, p. 5).