The album contains around ten panoramas of Constantinople, including views of the Hagia Sophia, Süleymaniye Mosque, the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, myriad mosques and European buildings (figs.2-4). It was in part on the basis of his View of Constantinople from the Cemetery at Galata-Sarai that he was awarded the title of Academician at the 1858 exhibition at the Academy of Arts. His famous Zapiski moryaka-khudozhnika give a wonderful and detailed account of the entire trip. His introduction to the city it seems was unpropitious, having been robbed of his meagre possessions soon after arrival in September, but a chance encounter with General Chirikov in Pera brought him funding to travel further east to Sinope, where he spent October, and on to Trebizond.
On his return to Constantinople, it was as though Bogoliubov saw the city with fresh eyes. ‘The Bosphorus, Leander’s Tower, the Topkapi headland and the myriad mosques, scattered across the hills of the marvellous Old City made an even deeper and more favourable impression on me this time, than when I saw them initially… after I had been mugged.’ (Zapiski p.71).
From Constantinople Bogoliubov returned to Paris where he worked up his studies into paintings. Ever the perfectionist, he was so unhappy with many of these landscapes that he ‘decided to destroy all of them’. Prince Gagarin persuaded the artist to leave two paintings however and to rework three of them (Zapiski, p.81). At his exhibition at the Academy of Arts from 15 November to 15 December 1860, Bogoliubov exhibited seven large-scale pictures, mostly on the subject of the Battle of Sinope, together with three views of Constantinople, 200 studies and 250 drawings (Zapiski p.90). It is possible the present work was among the three noted.
In terms of stylistic analysis, even the most cursory overview of published material on Bogoliubov’s early period shows that he signed variously in the 1850s both in Cyrillic and Latin, cursive and in capitals (i.e. Alessio Bogoluboff, A. Bogoluboff). Importantly for the attribution of this painting, we find in his 1856 sketchbook a similar monogram ‘A B’ in the lower left corner of his view of the city from Galata-Sarai (fig.2).
The infra-red image of the present work (fig.6) reveals interesting underdrawing which corresponds strongly to the preparatory drawings of known works by Bogoliubov. The clear verticals and architectural details of Leander’s Tower for example, is very similar to the underdrawing of his late 1850s View of Viko near Naples (see N.S.Ignatova, Alexei Petrovich Bogoliubov, kartiny v chastnykh sobraniyakh, p.22). The changes to the prows of the small boats in the foreground, both on the left and in the centre, are characteristic not only of a ‘sailor-artist’ who prided himself on the accuracy of the naval elements of his pictures, but also show the artist working out the correct perspective and depth of field. The re-drafting of the camels’ necks is an endearing detail revealed by infra-red imaging, and points to the interest and confusion perhaps, of a European artist challenged by having to depict an unfamiliar animal.
Other compelling stylistic elements include the short white impasto brushstrokes on the surface of the waves; the pale, chalky texture to the buildings on the horizon (see View of Alessio, 1880s, idem., p.57) and the pale impasto touches to the distant domes and minarets, which find counterparts in the unusually narrow domes that we see for example in his early 1850 View of the Academy of Arts (idem., p.17). The rounded shoulders and spherical dimension to his figures is a characteristic that can be traced throughout Bogoliubov’s oeuvre. In terms of composition, the present lot brings to mind in particular his 1851 views of the Smolny Monastery which can be found in the Minsk National Gallery and the State Tretyakov Gallery (fig.5), with their towering clouds, low horizon, figures in the earthy foreground and central tower.
The present work is said to have been in the private collection of a Greek family originally from Izmir since the early 1920s until the late 1990s.
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