Osman Hamdi Bey

When the Louvre purchased the The Scholar by Osman Hamdi Bey, they opened the question, how much is the worth of this famous Orientalist artist? During the proceedings of me trying to answer the question, I did some research on how much Osman Hamdi Bey paintings have been sold in the past. Firstly what I did learn in the purchase of The Scholar was that the price estimate landed to around three to five million dollars.  How much did it exactly sold for? That information has been restricted to the public because of the venders decided to keep it under lock and key.While actually throughout the years Osman Hamdi Bey’s paintings have ranged in worth to between 1 million to 2.6 million Turkish Liras.

Firstly, we must look at Osman Hamdi Bey himself. The well-known Ottoman/ Turkish artist is classified as an Orientalist artist, because he is an Ottoman orientalist artist, and this title is different in comparison to the European Orientalist artist. The compare and contrast between him and these artists can outlined, Hamdi Bey never created a fantasy with his artwork. A man of European tradition in his brush strokes, he started the building blocks of the modernity rising in Istanbul through the reality of his artwork. Hamdi Bey was nothing close to Eurocentric. He only took his teaching to convey the subject matter strongly. He mainly stands out from them, because he has taken the European standards of painting, but not as an artistic influence.

Opening the conversation of how we define orientalism. Edward W. Said established Orientalism as “ a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is base on the Orient’s special place in the European Western experience.” (Said, 1) This discussion I’ve personal seen in the Western world has pretty much set up modernity in the Middle Eastern countries by what I like to call “ Eastern influence and Western implications.” Essentially the Middle East did not what how to grow economically and socially until Western citizens travelled to their states, and with them they brought Western/European standards. Once they applied themselves in these surroundings, the people of these counties became extremely curious. They had this want and need to learn more about other parts of the world, and Europe was most fascinating none the least. The fascinating of foreign aspects pushed individuals from other sides. Osman Hamdi Bey was one of the first people to explore this world. Initially his father sent him to France for law school, but while he was there – he fell in love with art.

Upon returning fro France, the imperialist movement was under way. The Tanzimats were exploring the romanticisms of the past and applying it to the present. And so in which the church of Hagia Irene was closed to the public and with it the people of the community were keen on the city construction of the first Ottoman Imperial Museum. The church had contained centuries of archeological antiques like hellion-byzantine items. Everyone wanted the museum to be established on the grounds of education. Society in Turkey was modernizing and looking to France for inspiration. The Eurocentric was spreading amongst the Ottoman Empire, and everyone was in admiration towards the European standards of living – it was there fantasy. E. Goold was the first director of the Imperial Museum in Turkey; “ With its new name, Imperial Museum, its focus was not on these antiquities but one the concept of empire that the antiquities could represent. In shifting its designation from “ collection” to “museum,” the institution acquired the bivalent task of glorifying the empire through the metonymic devices of antiquities and situating that empire as part of Europe through the practice of display.” (Shaw, 87)

The Imperial Museum went through a lot of shifts of directorial power. For once Ali Pasha had died in 1871, the Sultan Abdülaziz had appointed Mahmut Nedim Pasha as grand vizier to which, Goold was removed from his director position. Mahmut gave the position to a painter named Teranzio. Then the museum closed and then reopened to the public, and at this time a German man by the name of Anton Philip Déther became museum director to continue the streak of European influence. He worked there until his death in 1880. By 1892 Osman Hamdi Bey became the museum director once returning from France. Even though his father had connections with the museum, Hamdi Bey was a clear candidate for his time serving and working in France. The romanticism and modernity flowing from Europe to the Ottoman Empire helped him as it distinguished himself as an influential individual in the 19th century Ottoman Empire. The cross roads of Western and Eastern characteristics were colliding in his artwork, which made him even more prominent in the community. “ Osman Hamdi made no direct reference to the museum in his paintings: he did not depict museum spaces, nor did he attempt to contextualize antiquities in ancient sites. While his work often situates him in an imaginary Ottoman past, they also serve as an allegorical representation of his efforts at the Imperial Museum. He often seems to have chosen his subjects with reference to the experiences of this day job as museum director. In examining the cultural implications of the new museum, his paintings, become documents of its director’s hopes, intentions, and frustrations in relation to the projects in his charge.” (Shaw, 100)

When we think of Osman Hamdi Bey and his contributions to the art world, Middle Eastern or not, we look at his distinguishable brush strokes of reality. In The Scholar us, as an audience, are transported back in time to this moment in time in the Ottoman Empire where the normative is presented in a young student studying in a little nook of a mosque. This reality is what prevailed through Istanbul and the Ottoman Empire – the modernity and influences that contributed to the evolution of the Ottoman Empire. As Western Implications and Eastern influences continue to shape the meaning of Oritentalism for Osman Hamdi Bey, what we can exactly see in his artwork is the form of life and how prominent it stands out from other works on this subject matter. The Scholar is so interpretative because each detail is another layer to Osman Hamdi Bey’s societal message. Himself as an artist and influential figure in the Ottoman Empire, Hamdi Bey was completely transfixed by this mode of conveying subjects and meanings of the Middle East that he ended up creating this artwork in which the colors and scenery don’t give everything away.