In his view of Venice (Walters 37.942), Ziem included an artist in a gondola before his easel-a testament of sorts to the idea of fidelity to nature. Ziem was known to have maintained such a "floating studio," leading some scholars to identify him as a proto-impressionist. But the artist did not remain true to nature in this particular scene. Although this watercolor bears the title "Constantinople," it is not an accurate view of the city. Rather, it is a composite of Eastern motifs. Ziem traveled through Turkey in 1847 and 1858 and was certainly familiar with its capital. The combination of minarets and low domes is indeed Turkish, but the elongated facades and pink and white striated architecture are characteristic of Egypt. Here, Ziem has given us a warm, golden light more in keeping with Venetian subjects than Turkish ones. In addition, William Walters commissioned this watercolor and two others in September 1863 when Ziem was in France, paying 2,500 francs for all three of them. The artist, then, could not have been working "en plein air," but composing from memory and studies made during his earlier trips.
(Released under the GNU Free Documentation License)
Inscription: [Signed] Lower right in brown ink: Ziem
Medium: watercolor heightened with gum over graphite underdrawing on beige, moderately thick, slightly textured wove paper.
Credit line: Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1863.
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