Seyh-ül-Islâm, or Grand Mufti

Watercolour
about 1809 (Painted)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The title of Seyh-ül-Islâm, or Grand Mufti, refers to the highest official of religious law in a Sunni Moslem country. In the Ottoman Caliphate he was a state official, and the Grand Mufti of Constantinople was the highest of these.
This picture was one of a series commissioned by Stratford Canning (later Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe), 1786-1880. He began his long diplomatic career in Turkey as first secretary to Robert Adair on his mission to Istanbul in 1808. On arrival Canning soon arranged to see officially (and unofficially) all manner of Ottoman institutions, buildings and customs. What made his curiosity really valuable is that he hired a local artist to make this large series of views and studies of what he had seen. The identity of the artist is unknown, though Turkish scholars believe that he was part of the studio or circle of Konstantin Kapidagli. His style combines the dense and brilliant water and bodycolour used by Ottoman artists with European conventions of representation and perspective.
As a young man, the artist and future neo-classical architect Charles Cockerell went to Istanbul in 1810, stayed at the embassy, and even met Byron there. There Cockerell (with an interpreter) met and discussed painting technique with this Greek artist whom, frustratingly, he did not name in his letters. Cockerell’s copies of the Greek’s architectural views are now in the British Museum. The Victoria and Albert Museum finally acquired the original set of drawings from Canning’s daughter Charlotte in 1895.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Water- and bodycolour
Brief Description
Seyh-ül-Islâm, or Grand Mufti, about 1809. Anonymous Greek artist
Physical Description
A Turkish cleric in a large turban and fur-trimmed robes, looking heavenwards, facing right
Dimensions
  • Height: 32.3cm
  • Width: 18.6cm
Marks and Inscriptions
Numbered 1
Object history
Originally the paintings in this series [D.23-150-1895] were bound in a volume. It was bought by the Museum in 1895 from `Miss Canning' [i.e. Charlotte Canning, daughter of Stratford Canning] for 10 Guineas.
Subject depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
The title of Seyh-ül-Islâm, or Grand Mufti, refers to the highest official of religious law in a Sunni Moslem country. In the Ottoman Caliphate he was a state official, and the Grand Mufti of Constantinople was the highest of these.

This picture was one of a series commissioned by Stratford Canning (later Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe), 1786-1880. He began his long diplomatic career in Turkey as first secretary to Robert Adair on his mission to Istanbul in 1808. On arrival Canning soon arranged to see officially (and unofficially) all manner of Ottoman institutions, buildings and customs. What made his curiosity really valuable is that he hired a local artist to make this large series of views and studies of what he had seen. The identity of the artist is unknown, though Turkish scholars believe that he was part of the studio or circle of Konstantin Kapidagli. His style combines the dense and brilliant water and bodycolour used by Ottoman artists with European conventions of representation and perspective.

As a young man, the artist and future neo-classical architect Charles Cockerell went to Istanbul in 1810, stayed at the embassy, and even met Byron there. There Cockerell (with an interpreter) met and discussed painting technique with this Greek artist whom, frustratingly, he did not name in his letters. Cockerell’s copies of the Greek’s architectural views are now in the British Museum. The Victoria and Albert Museum finally acquired the original set of drawings from Canning’s daughter Charlotte in 1895.
Bibliographic Reference
Charles Newton `Stratford Canning's Pictures of Turkey', The V&A Album, Vol. 3, 1984, pp.76-83
Collection
Accession Number
D.23-1895

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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