This little watercolour of Hagia Sophia in Turkey is now one of my watercolour treasures. A bit like Doug’s Dad’s watch, it has a story attached to it.
One evening while I was visiting my family in South Africa a couple of weeks ago, my sister pulled four boxes out of the back of the cupboard. They had been stored there since my grandmother’s death 10 years ago. In amongst all the old photographs of family members, some of which we hadn’t ever seen before, was a little watercolour painting on a card. The image of Hagia Sophia is executed in vibrant colours. One of the things that surprised me is the clarity of the colours – considering that the painting is over seventy years old. This is probably in part, because it hasn’t been exposed to light.
Inside the card is a message to my grandmother (Stella) and mother (Rosemary) sent from Karabuk in 1937. I know my grandfather worked as an engineer on some projects in Turkey for a while when my mother was very young. We must assume that this is card was sent back home to the family in England when he was in Turkey and before they followed him out there.
I have no idea who the artist was. At first I wondered it was painted by my grandfather – he was known to paint in his spare time in his youth. But the signature isn’t the same as the one on his painting that hangs in my parents’ diningroom. My grandparents owned a couple of paintings they bought while they were stationed in Turkey. Apparently they were all done by white Russians who had fled to Turkey after the 1917 revolution and presumably stayed. I can only guess that this little gem was painted by a local artist – perhaps even a Russian expat.
This is one of my very own precious artifacts now.
About Hagia Sophia:
Until I saw this painting, I knew nothing about Hagia Sophia. Once my mother had identified the building, I had a look online and discovered that the building has a fascinating history. Originally built in 537, it has been a basilica, a mosque and then a museum (which is it function now).
John Sargent Singer famously painted it’s interior in 1891 – his painting can be seen here