Ali Pasha and Kyra Vasiliki pastel 40 x 40cm (15 3/4 x 15 3/4in).
Ali Pasha (1741-1822) was the ruler of the Ottoman Empire's European territory, whose court was in Ioannina in Epirus. Kyra Vasiliki (1789-1834) was a Christian Greek girl from the village of Plisivitsa near Filiates. At the age of twelve she sought an audience with Ali Pasha in order to beg him to spare her father, Kitzos Kontaxis's, life. Ali Pasha granted her father pardon and married Kyra Vasiliki in 1808; she lived with his harem of over 600 women, and was undoubtedly his favourite. Vasiliki had great influence over her husband, a notoriously cruel and violent ruler, and often pleaded with her husband to save her fellow countrymen.
By 1820, Ali Pasha's appetite for power and independence proved too much for Sultan Mahmud II and the Sublime Porte in Constantinople. He was accused of treason, and the town of Ioannina was besieged by Ottoman troops for two years. Ali Pasha and Kyra Vasiliki sought refuge in the monastery of Pandelimonos on an island in Lake Pamvotis. However, in January 1822, Ali Pasha was captured and executed, and his head was sent to decorate the gates of Constantinople. Kyra Vasiliki was sent as a prisoner to the Sultan, but her life was spared and she was allowed to return to Greece. She died in Aitoliko, Central Greece, on December 11, 1834.