This article aims at revisiting recent scholarship on the Ottoman painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey (1842–1910) and proposes a critical reassessment of the way in which some of his major paintings have been analyzed. The central argument is that studies of his oeuvre have relied mostly on interpretation, while failing to exhaust the explanatory potential of still partly untapped sources. In an effort to redress this imbalance, a number of issues that are likely to contribute to a better understanding of the artist’s works are examined. Among these, the seemingly simple and straightforward matter of his paintings’ names reveals a surprising number of misnomers that attest to the combined effect of insufficient documentation and teleological interpretation. Two such blatant errors, namely the so-called Tortoise Charmer (1906) and Mihrab (1901), are studied in detail to illustrate this point and propose a critical reinterpretation of the nature, context, and meaning of these two iconic works. More generally, the article addresses the issue of audiences and of reception in order to challenge some of the claims made to this day regarding the artist’s intent, and concludes by proposing a more systematic treatment of this oeuvre, one that may allow for less speculative interpretations.
This work deals with French trade in Istanbul in the eighteenth century, using French and Ottoman sources, and integrating the political and social dimensions of the question. It also sheds light on the financial dimension of trade, particularly that of bills of exchange and monetary trade, linking Istanbul to other Ottoman cities and to European financial centers. Finally, it tackles the issue of western economic penetration, arguing that, despite some signs of domination, French control over the market was efficiently opposed by local actors, that economic integration with the West was often realized on equal terms, and that much of the domination witnessed toward the end of the century was, in fact, the result of French diplomatic leverage and of the gradual estrangement of non-Muslim traders from the Ottoman "commonwealth".