Fishermen on the Bosphorus at dusk signed 'F Zonaro' l.l. oil on canvas 55 x 100 cm. (20½ x 39¼ in.)
Born in Padua in 1854, Fausto Zonaro graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. He exhibited his work in Italy in the late 1880s before moving to Paris. In 1891, at his wifes request, Zonaro moved from Venice to Istanbul and settled in a house in Taksim, on the northern bank of the Golden Horn. He quickly adapted to the Turkish way of life, speaking Turkish, wearing a fez and attending the Selamlðk.
Following an introduction by the Italian ambassador, Zonaro was appointed court artist to the last Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) in 1896. The following year, Zonaro so impressed the Sultan with his depiction of the Battle of Dömeke in the Turkish-Greek War that he was rewarded with No. 50 Akaretler; one of the houses for palace officials in Besiktas, overlooking the Bosphorus.
During his time in Istanbul, Zonaro painted some 1,300 pictures of the city and depicted every aspect of life in Istanbul. Many of his paintings are still in Dolmabahçe Palace and other national palaces. He remained in Istanbul until 1911, when he moved to San Remo during the Trablusgarp War, and where he died in 1929.
While in Istanbul, Zonaro became friends with Osman Hamdi Bey, founder of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, and the two often went fishing on the Bosphorus. Zonaro describes a fishing trip similar to the one depicted above:
"Our boat filled with fish, each weighing three kilos. When Hamdi Bey asked if that was sufficient, I said that I could feed my entire neighbourhood in Taksim with so many fish. That day, after eating our fill with Hamdi Bey, I took the remainder home in a basket and we ate fish for the next week. The Bosphorus had begun to feast me not only with its blue hues, but also with its delicious fish."
LITERATURE: Erol Makzume and Osman Öndes, Fausto Zonaro, Ottoman Court Painter (Istanbul, 2003).