Pubblicato il 19/09/17e aggiornato il

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Fausto Zonaro | Orientalist painter




Italian painter* Fausto Zonaro (18 September 1854 - 19 July 1929) painted portraits, landscapes and historical paintings, best known for his Realist style paintings of life and history of the Ottoman Empire.


It is claimed that:
"Zonaro was one of those who made a major contribution to the development of western style art in Turkey".
He was a prolific artist who created hundreds of works, most of which are of the Ottoman Empire. An exhibition of his work in Florence in 1977 "received wide acclaim in the art world".
Today, most of Zonaro’s works remain in Istanbul, and many of them are on display in the city’s leading museums. His pictures can be found in the state museums of Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace and the Istanbul Military Museum. Zonaro’s works can also be found in the private Sakıp Sabancı Museum and Pera Museum. Also, a number of them belong to private collectors in Turkey.







  • Young life and early art career
Fausto Zonaro was born in Masi, a municipality in the Province of Padua, then part of the Austrian Empire. He was the eldest child of the mason Maurizio and his wife Elisabetta Bertoncin. Maurizio intended that his son should also be a mason, yet at a young age, Fausto showed a great ability at drawing.
With his parents’ consent, he enrolled first in the Technical Institute in Lendinara, then in the Cignaroli Academy in Verona under Napoleone Nani. Fausto opened a small art school and studio in Venice, but traveled often to Naples as well. He felt no clear direction in his life at that time.
He actively displayed works in exhibition and gained respect of critics. He painted mainly genre works in oil and watercolor.
  • In 1883 at Milan, he exhibited: Le rivelatrici napoletane; Da Sant'Elmo, and Al Pincio;
  • In Rome, the canvases Passa la vacca; La sofferente; Le cucitrici napoletane, and Il saponaro;
  • In 1884, at Turin: Tempesta; Primo nato; Primo tuono, and the Zoccolaro of Naples;
  • and in 1887 at Venice: In attesa; Al Redentoretto, and Lavoratrice di perle.
La casa Camerini of Padua once possessed a banditore; and two canvases: I pigiatori and In medio stat virtus.
The turning point in Zonaro’s career occurred however in 1891, when he fell in love with Elisabetta Pante, a pupil of his in Venice, And together they traveled to Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire. They were partly inspired by Edmondo de Amicis’ orientalist travel book Constantinopoli.



  • Istanbul
In 1892, Zonaro and Pante married, and lived in the Istanbul neighborhood of Pera.
In Istanbul, over time he gained patronage in aristocratic circles. Munir Pasha, the Minister of Protocol, who invited him to visit Yıldız Palace and meet the prestigious local artist Osman Hamdi Bey*.
He was employed in teaching painting to the Pasha's wife, and in this way Zonaro and Pante got to know the important artistic figures of Istanbul of that time.
In 1896 he was nominated as the court painter (Ottoman Turkish: Ressam-ı Hazret-i Şehriyari) thanks to the intervention of the Russian ambassador who had presented the ruling sultan Abdulhamid II with Zonaro’s work Il reggimento imperiale di Ertugrul sul ponte di Galata (in English: The Imperial Regiment of the Ertugrul on the Galata Bridge), which Abdulhamid II had then purchased.


The Sultan later commissioned from Zonaro a series of paintings depicting events in the life of the 15th-century Ottoman sultan, Mehmed II.
Holding the position of court painter, Zonaro viewed himself as the successor to the Venetian painter Gentile Bellini, who had been commissioned by Mehmed II to paint his portrait over 300 years earlier.
Also during his stay in Istanbul, Zonaro witnessed the Day of Ashura processions carried out by the Shia Muslims on the tenth of Muharram, and it was the procession of Tatbir that inspired him to paint his renowned painting 10th of Muharram, it was reported that Zonaro said "After witnessing the horripilating procession (of Tatbir) I wish I were able to meet this man they mourn for".
The "man" Zonaro speaks of indicates to the oppressed grandson of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, Hussein ibn Ali.


  • Return to Italy
Zonaro remained in Istanbul until 1909, when he returned to Italy following the Young Turk Revolution that overthrew his patron Abdulhamid II and the shift to constitutional monarchy. There would be no Ottoman court painter after him.
He settled in Sanremo where he continued to paint small works depicting the Italian Riviera and the nearby French Riviera until his death.
In 1920 he separated from his wife and began living with his daughter.
Nine years later, he died. He is buried in the Foce Cemetery in Sanremo. On his gravestone, underneath an Ottoman tughra, it states that Zonaro was the court painter of the Ottoman Empire.







































































Fausto Zonaro (Masi, 18 settembre 1854 - Sanremo, 19 luglio 1929) è stato un pittore Italiano*.
Primo dei sei figli del muratore Maurizio Zonaro e di Elisabetta Bertoncin, manifesta fin da piccolo buone doti nel disegno e viene perciò mandato dai genitori a studiare nell'Istituto Tecnico della città di Lendinara e quindi a Verona, presso l'Accademia Cignaroli diretta da Napoleone Nani.
Apre quindi una piccola scuola di pittura a Venezia, ma la sua attività lo porta spesso a recarsi anche a Napoli.
Fra le più importanti realizzazioni di questo periodo, particolare rilievo ha per l'appunto un ciclo di circa trenta pastelli con vedute di Napoli e dei dintorni realizzato per la villa del duca Paolo Camerini, ora Villa Simes-Contarini, di Piazzola sul Brenta.
La svolta nella carriera di Fausto Zonaro avviene però nel 1891 quando, insieme ad Elisabetta Pante, sua ex allieva a Venezia divenuta ora la sua compagna, decide di avventurarsi in Oriente, nell'allora Costantinopoli.
Qui, poco a poco riesce a farsi conoscere negli ambienti aristocratici, ottenendo commesse sempre più importanti fino a quando, nel 1896, viene nominato "pittore di corte" grazie ai buoni uffici dell'ambasciatore russo, per il quale aveva realizzato alcuni dipinti e che presenta al sultano Abdul-Hamid II l'opera Il reggimento imperiale di Ertugrul sul ponte di Galata, da questi immediatamente acquistata. Il sultano ordina a Zonaro una serie di altre opere, in particolare una serie di quadri sull'epopea di Maometto II.


Fausto Zonaro, ultimo pittore della corte imperiale di Costantinopoli, rimane nella Città d'Oro fino al 1909, anno in cui rientra in Italia a seguito del colpo di Stato che depone il sultano Abdul-Hamid.
Si stabilisce allora a Sanremo e continua a dipingere piccole vedute della Riviera Ligure e della vicina Costa Azzurra.
A Sanremo Zonaro fu accolto con grande entusiasmo. Una clientela anche orientale gli continuò a commissionare ritratti e soggetti d'oriente che traeva dagli innumerevoli disegni portati in patria. Continuò a dipingere fino alla morte, avvenuta nel 1929. È sepolto nel cimitero della Foce a Sanremo.
Molte delle opere di Fausto Zonaro sono tuttora conservate nei più importanti musei di Istanbul, tra cui il Topkapi, il Palazzo Imperiale di Dolmabahçe e il Museo Militare.




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