Panorama of İstanbul

Antoine de Favray

Oil on canvas,100 x 213 cm

French artist, Antoine de Favray (1706, Bagnolet – 1791, Malta) studied art at the French Academy in Rome under Jean-François de Troy. Upon the request of several Knights of Malta, whom he met while still in Rome, he traveled to Malta with the intention of staying for a few months. However, de Favray drew considerable interest and he was eventually received into the Order as a Knight of Malta in 1751 where resumed his career. During his stay, he produced paintings for churches, portraits of Knights, including the Grand Master and other Knights of the Saint John Order of the Knights, as well as paintings depicting Maltese women.  In 1762, the same year he became a member of the Academy, de Favray, went to İstanbul to produce paintings of the lands of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish people and eventually stayed there for nine years.  During the ambassadorships of M. de Vergennes and Saint Priest, he lived at the French Palace in İstanbul under their patronage, and later moved to the Russian Palace. De Favray’s oeuvre includes portraits of foreign embassy officials, depictions of audience ceremonies, genre scenes from the life of Greek and Levantine women, and panoramic views of İstanbul as seen from the hills of Pera. De Favray, who left İstanbul Malta at the age of 65, also became renowned in the European art circles.

Panoramic İstanbul views hold an important place among the paintings de Favray produced in İstanbul.  The fastidiousness and accuracy with which details are incorporated into the landscapes render these works an important documentary character. As often practiced by other Western artists of the period, the views of İstanbul are painted from the embassies in Pera, and particularly from the Russian Palace, where the artist resided for some time during his stay in İstanbul. According to the French diplomat Auguste Boppe, whose book Les Peintres du Bosphore published in 1911 introduces European artists working on the 18th century Ottoman world, de Favray initially painted this cityscape for French Ambassador M. de Vergennes upon his arrival in İstanbul in 1762 and reproduced it in 1770 and 1773 for Knight of Malta Etienne-François Turgot. In his letters to the Knight, de Favray offers a detailed description of the composition and introduces the various quarters and outstanding structures of İstanbul featured in the painting. Furthermore, he also shares with Turgot the difficulty of painting outside the confines of the embassies and praises Pera’s location overlooking the city as an ideal vantage point for İstanbul paintings. 

According to this letter, the gardens in the foreground of the painting belong to the Russian Palace. In addition to various districts of İstanbul, Topkapı Palace and a building complex, which de Favray refers to as the Asian Palace, are also discernable in the painting. In his letter to Turgot, Favray writes, “... a palace is visible. It is called the Asian Palace. Sultan Murad IV had the palace constructed in Persian style upon his return from the Baghdad military expedition. Today, the palace is abandoned....” When compared to the works of other artists such as Hilair and Cassas, it can be concluded that the building complex in the Harem area is the “Kavak Palace” which no longer exists. The high, snow-capped mountain in the background, to the right, is Uludağ.