Nikolaos Gysis (Greek 1842-1901) The Zeybek 45.5 x 32.5 cm. (17 7/8 x 12 3/4 in.)

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Lot 27
Nikolaos Gysis
(Greek 1842-1901)
The Zeybek 45.5 x 32.5 cm. (17 7/8 x 12 3/4 in.)

Sold for £ 94,650 (US$ 130,159) inc. premium

Greek Sale

16 Dec 2003, 14:00 GMT

London, New Bond Street

Nikolaos Gysis (Greek 1842-1901)
The Zeybek
signed with initials 'NG' (lower left)
oil on canvas
45.5 x 32.5 cm. (17 7/8 x 12 3/4 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private collection, Athens.


    A true find, this captivating work of great draftsmanship and a sensitive palette reveals for the first time Nikolaos Gysis’ fascination with the zeybek, a member of the irregular troops serving the Ottoman Empire, recruited in Asia Minor from Greek populations of Thracian origin that converted to Islam, forming a distinct minority among the inhabitants of the towns of Proussa and Aidini.

    We know that in 1873 Gysis, along with Nikiforos Lytras, visited Asia Minor for three months, and this journey “resulted in some marvellous works that testify to this experience having matured and settled within him”1. For Gysis, moreover, the Orient is neither a romantic ideal nor a westerner’s dreamy fantasy, but a deeply felt, familiar reality he has experienced first hand.

    In his 1929 Album of Greek Artists, Xenofon Sochos notes that “Nikiforos Lytras and Nikolaos Gysis, two great painters and inseparable friends, decided to embark on an artistic journey in Asia Minor, to observe and study the local inhabitants. To commemorate this journey of theirs, they purchased a zeybek’s and a hodja’s garb, which they wore and were photographed in, the one seated as a zeybek is N. Gysis, while the one standing as a hodja is N. Lytras. Thus both artists observed the zeybeks in detail and rendered them in wonderful pictures”.

    However, though we are familiar with Lytras’ rendition of the zeybek, Gysis’ handling of the same subject was unknown until this rare gem to be auctioned was discovered. Impeccably drawn, wisely composed and displaying a limited yet powerful colour scheme dominated by Gysis’ signature red, The Zeybek depicts the impressive garb of the irregular soldier with the short, embroidered vest, wide sash around the waist holding pistols and ammunition, loose knee breeches and typical sandals. The zeybek’s masterly rendition is highlighted by his characteristic headpiece. Two fezzes, one on top of the other, bound by silk kerchiefs to form a turban, draw attention to the handsome facial features, impelling the viewer to delve beyond the surface and seek the inner world of the young zeybek.

    1 Marinos Kalligas, Nikolaos Gysis, [in Greek] MIET 1981, p.48-49
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