The British army at Scutari, 1854 signed 'Preziosi', inscribed 'Scutari' and dated '11 Maggio 1854' watercolour heightened with white 71.1 x 96.5 cm. (28 x 38 in.)
PROVENANCE: Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, (1786-1880). The 1st Baron Lloyd, (1879-1941). By direct descent to the current owner.
Preziosi was born into a wealthy and aristocratic Maltese family and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1840. On returning to Malta he found his father to be opposed to his artistic inclinations and so left the island for Constantinople.
His exact date of arrival in Constantinople is not known but it was around November 1842 and Preziosi soon established his reputation as a painter of contemporary Constantinople life. He worked from a studio at Pera and familiarised himself with all Turkish manners and customs. In 1858, in collaboration with Lemercier in Paris "Stamboul; Recollections of Eastern Life" was published with Preziosi providing twenty-nine illustrations to be lithographed.
Stratford Canning, created Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe was Ambassador to the Ottoman Court from 1824 to 1829 and again from 1842 to 1858.
George Ambrose Lloyd, created Baron Lloyd was honorary attaché to the Consulate in Istanbul from 1905 to 1906, High Commissioner for Egypt from 1825 to 1828 and then Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1840 to 1841.
The present watercolour, like its companion, sold in these rooms on 10 May 2005 (lot 87), documents the activities of the British and Allied forces, gathering in Istanbul at the beginning of the Crimean War. With his characteristic flair for lively anecdote and masterly attention to detail, Preziosi has depicted an encampment of troops from the 1st Division of the British Army at Scutari (now Üsküdar) on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Regiments represented include both Highlanders and Guards, whose tents are pitched with military precision on the hill. Among them, with apparent indifference to discipline, mingle a motley collection of civilians and soldiers at leisure, smoking, drinking and chatting, with the exception of the washerwoman at extreme right, hard at work, her washing hanging on a line behind. The focal point of the composition, however, is not military, but a bargaining encounter between two civilians each representing Europe and Turkey: a dapper gentleman whose riding crop, check jacket and rakishly tilted hat are bohemian enough to suggest that he may depict the artist himself, and, as a reminder to the viewer of the Turkish location, a typical merchant from the bazaars attempting to sell his wares, while the two mens horses, appropriately caparisoned, wait patiently with their grooms. The paraphernalia of objects on the ground reinforce the presence of both east and west, together but distinct: on the left Turkish pack saddles, swords and other merchandise belonging to the local tradesmen and on the right a bearskin, rifle, epauletted jacket, blue cap and other accoutrements of the British army.
Another version of this watercolour is in the Government Art Collection, and currently hangs at Pera House, the British Consulate-General in Istanbul. The figures are differently positioned but, as the viewpoint is the same, the key provided by the artist beneath the image is informative. Thus we learn that the house on the left behind the flagpole is the residence of Lord Raglan, Commander of the British troops, that the vessel in the distance is the Victoria, from which the troops are disembarking, that one of the regiments represented is the Coldstream Guards, and that the large buildings in the distance, behind the first and second tents, are the Selimye hospital and barracks, housing the British troops. It was here, a few months later, that Florence Nightingale arrived and with her revolutionary nursing procedures dramatically reduced the patients death rate. Other salient topographical features of the sky-line described are, left, Seraglio Point, with the mosques of Constantinople (each individually identifiable), middle, the district of Haydarpasa, which later became the site of the Crimean War Cemetery, and, right, the old Turkish cemetery of Karaca Ahmet.
Stratford Canning was Ambassador to the Ottoman Court during this period, and a key figure in the negotiations between the Russians and the Turks. He may have commissioned Preziosi to paint this and its pair, as picturesque mementos, to mark the arrival of the British troops, full of confidence in a swift and successful outcome to the war. They could not forsee the gruesome effects of disease, high casualty rates, protracted fighting, muddled strategies and appalling conditions that were to become the grim reality.
We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn and Charles Newton for their assistance in cataloguing this lot. We would also like to thank Caroline Williams, Jason Thompson, the Government Art Collection and the National Army Museum for their helpful information relating to the present work.