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The Unknown Craftsman Made Real: Sopon Bezirdjian, Armenian-ness and Crafting the Late Ottoman Palaces

Le monde retrouvé d’un artisan arménien inconnu : Sopon Bezirdjian et la décoration des palais ottomans tardifs
Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan
p. 71-109

Résumés

Sopon Bezirdjian (1839-1915), Arménien ottoman né à Constantinople, installé en Angleterre vers 1880, a consacré le début de sa vie professionnelle à la décoration des palais du sultan Abdülaziz (1861-1876), tels ceux de Beylerbeyi (1865) et Çırağan (1871) qui furent bâtis sous la direction de l’architecte Sarkis Balian. À la différence d’interprétations historiographiques récentes qui tendent à mettre au premier plan le cosmopolitanisme des artistes constantinopolitains, cet article souligne le caractère spécifiquement arménien des équipes auxquelles furent confiés ces travaux des années 1860 et 1870, tout en s’efforçant de préciser le rôle joué par Bezirdjian en leur sein. En outre, l’étude d’un fonds d’archives constitué des dessins de Sopon Bezirdjian permet d’interroger la relation entretenue par l’artiste avec ses multiples attaches identitaires – ottomanes, arméniennes, européennes –et de montrer l’importance prise dans son œuvre par des éléments culturels arméniens dans le contexte politique ottoman répressif de la fin du dix-neuvième siècle.

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Notes de l’auteur

I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity by Claudia and Justin Clark to view the collection of Claudia’s relative Sopon and I extend my heartfelt thanks to them both. I also thank Tim Stanley of the Victoria and Albert Museum for first putting me in touch with the Clarks, and I thank Stephanie Boydell and the Manchester Metropolitan Library Special Collections for letting me view the archive since it moved and to publish images. I thank the editors of this volume and the anonymous reviewers for their feedback. I should note that this essay represents only my preliminary thoughts on Sopon.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The work of Pars Tuğlacı is the prime example of this: Tuğlacı identifies a number of Armenian craf (...)
  • 2 When I refer to Turkish scholarship I am talking about works produced within the academic environme (...)

1The significant role of Armenian craftsmen in furnishing the late Ottoman palaces has long been known and circulated in oral traditions, Armenian written sources, and in texts that include such accounts as their documentary basis.1 Yet, until recently, there has been a reluctance to mention openly – and positively – this principal Armenian contribution to Ottoman architecture in Turkey. Even the example of the Balyan family, who were the architects responsible for the majority of the nineteenth-century imperial buildings, such as the Beylerbeyi Palace (1865), [see figure 1], and were mentioned in countless contemporary European sources, has long been minimised in the scholarship and in the public arena.2

Figure 1 “Oriental” ornament of Beylerbeyi Palace, 1865
[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]

  • 3 H. Kuruyazıcı, 2010.

2At the Fourteenth Istanbul Biennial Exhibition, one exhibit specifically addressed the issue of the Armenian craftsmanship which lies behind the material image of modern-day Istanbul. This followed on from an earlier photographic exhibition drawing attention to the role of Armenian architects.3 Yet, still, in this Biennale display, the identity and role of these craftsmen remained shady: little information was presented except for names, attributions and the visual spectacle of the craftworks themselves.

  • 4 Teotig, 1912, p. 255. R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2010.

3This essay aims to move the “unknown craftsman” away from the realm of the mythical or poetic, through looking to one specific example, Sopon Bezirdjian, who was a furniture designer and decorator that worked for the Balyan family during the 1860s and 1870s. Using the biographical account given by the almanac of early twentieth-century Armenian historian, Teotig,4 along with the content of Sopon’s personal archive of drawings as departure points, this essay begins to flesh out the input of Armenian craftsmen, such as Sopon, to the late Ottoman building works. Through focusing on Sopon’s person in this way, through underlining his Armenian-ness, and through combining this data with a heavy stress on the political situation in which he was operating, I aim to bring this unknown craftsman back to life.

The unknown (Armenian) craftsman in art and scholarship

4At the 2015 Istanbul Biennale, the opening statement gave the following explanation of its aims: “With and through art, we mourn, commemorate, denounce, try to heal, and we commit ourselves to the possibility of joy and vitality, of many communities that have co-inhabited this space, leaping from form to flourishing life.”5 As a result of this call, a number of the displays focused on what was referred to in the catalogue as Medz Yeghern and Hayots tseghaspanutyun.6 Plaster casts made by the Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz, represented the works of an Armenian craftsman Garabed Cezayirliyan. These designs were inspired by a still-living Turkish craftsman, Kemal Cimbiz, who took over the workshop of the Armenian master.7 The catalogue stated that Cezayirliyan, who died in the 1980s, had been employed by Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco, who was commissioned to reconstruct areas of Istanbul after the 1894 earthquake.8

5The Curator of the Biennale, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, specified the political motivations behind such representations of Medz Yeghern: “Their context triggers a short circuit that shakes our pacified categories and distinctions such as lack/presence, real/imaginary or present/past. Such shaking initiates their ability to operate, to have agency and transform the world.”9 A review of Rakowitz’s work drew attention to its dislodging of truths “without unilaterally replacing them with new ones.”10 Indeed, Christov-Bakargiev viewed the exhibitions as prompting a “trickle-down effect”.11

6As positive as the transformative aims of these exhibits might seem to be, especially when taking place within Turkey and thus subject to the supervision of official bodies ensuring that certain things are not mentioned, there are two issues that are particularly contentious, especially when viewing the role of Armenian craftsman that is presented. Firstly: the funding of such events by capital from questionable origins.12 Although the Biennale was given support from Armenian donors, the event was primarily enacted through wealth gathered in the wake of confiscation of Armenian property and halting of their industrial activities.13 A second issue is that key omissions of immediate political realities were made,14 thus distancing individual Armenians from their temporal existences and ignoring the fact that we do actually know a fair amount of precise information about their personal circumstances. It is not mentioned in the catalogue, for instance, how D’Aronco, in rebuilding Istanbul following the earthquake, was largely filling the shoes of Serkis Balyan, who had been unceremoniously removed from his post as chief architect.15

7This lack of specificity in the displays of the Biennale relates back to the situation within the academic literature concerning the role of the Balyan family and their (majority Armenian) craftsmen in constructing the Ottoman buildings of the nineteenth century. Within the Turkish establishment, there has long been a resistance to acknowledge Armenian dominance over late Ottoman architecture, a tendency to attribute their works to others (either Europeans or Turks, working at the time) and, at best, a reluctance to give credit to those Armenians for their creative or intellectual involvement.

  • 16 F. Akozan, 1983.

8A seminal example of this anti-Armenian historiography is a review by esteemed Turkish architect Feridun Akozan of (the Turkish-Armenian linguist) Pars Tuğlacı’s 1981 monograph on the role of the Balyan family. Akozan refuted that the family were equivalent to the historic office of mimarbaşı (chief Ottoman architect), which, he asserted, was abolished in 1831. Further along, Akozan added that the French decorator Séchan should be given the credit for the bulk of the furnishings of the Dolmabahçe Palace (completed in 1856), in reaction to Tuğlacı’s identification of Armenian craftsmen.16 Therefore, Akozan not only denied the role of the Balyans as holding the primary position in relation to imperial architecture, but also discredits the suggestion that Armenian artisans were responsible for interiors.

  • 17 The orthography used over the years has varied: Zeynep Çelik wrote, “Usul-u Mimari-i Osmani”. Z. Çe (...)
  • 18 Ersoy states in a footnote: “Agop and Serkis must have been outsiders to the close professional/int (...)
  • 19 A. Ersoy, 2000, p. 311.
  • 20 Ibid., 2015. The book’s stress on the Usul as the moment of “reconfiguration” moves the focus away (...)
  • 21 For instance, Ersoy reproduces project drawings of the Çırağan Palace (A. Ersoy, 2015, Figure 4.16) (...)
  • 22 Although Ersoy does dismiss the earlier claims of Halil Edhem that Montani was designer of the Pert (...)

9Recent studies have built up a more complex picture of Ottoman architecture of the late nineteenth century and the creative networks that fed into it. Yet, these continue to avoid allowing the Armenian individuals who were, in the main, those who were in reality responsible for designing and constructing these works, to take the centre stage. Ahmet Ersoy’s work is a good example of this tendency. Ersoy’s thesis, on the first book on the history of Ottoman architecture, Usul-u Mimari-i Osmani (1873),17 which was part of the Ottoman delegation to the Vienna Exposition, refers to the role of the Balyans and their craftsmen as peripheral to the milieu of intellectuals engaged in the writing of this text.18 In his recent book, Ersoy has switched his interpretation from focusing on the Usul as a “proto-national”19 moment to a reflection of Ottoman “cosmopolitanism commitments”.20 However, Ersoy still makes few references to the Balyans and ignores the recent literature available.21 As a result, the conceptualisation of the new decorative style of Ottoman architecture of the 1870s continues to be centred on the impact of non-Armenian actors, such as the Italian Pietro Montani, who was one of the authors of the Usul.22

  • 23 For instance an obituary by Krikor Odian of his friend Niğogos Balyan, which talks extensively abou (...)
  • 24 There are many examples of this kind of study that views the younger generation of Armenians as awa (...)

10This blind spot may not represent a deliberate omission: Ersoy and other authors writing on the Ottoman nineteenth-century architectural setting are not conversant with the Armenian sources that reflect the intellectual status of the Balyans, their creative role and the Armenian nature of their teams.23 This stress on social and intellectual exchange within communities of the late Ottoman Empire is indeed a welcome reprieve from the historiography of the past that painted a picture of the separate trajectory of the “Young Armenians” from the 1840s.24 It is also a progressive antidote to the present stress on the Islamic nature of the empire under the AKP and its historiography of “tolerance” of non-Muslims. Yet, within this particular context of the forced dispersal of Serkis Balyan’s operations (and the events that followed), and the attempts to discredit the Balyans’ authorship in the past, minimizing the personal creative role of the Balyans and other Armenians such as Sopon Bezirdjian, is destructive.

  • 25 M. Levinger and P.F. Lytle, 2001, pp. 175-194.

11As this essay demonstrates, the characterisation as cosmopolitan underplays the increasing affiliation that Armenians, in particular, were building up at this time, both to each other in the form of group solidarity, and to an abstract notion of Armenian national identity, which was starting to appear in private and communal manifestations. Therefore, although this was not the teleological development into Armenian separatism implied by the nationalist historiography, there was a significant element of mobilisation in the background, through the use of myth, in the form of increasing references to a primordial “golden age” of Armenian-ness, which Sopon’s own archive substantiates.25

  • 26 Marx stressed the international solidarity of the proletariat over their development of national so (...)

12The interpretive emphasis on Ottoman cosmopolitanism, like much of the literature on nationalism, regards the intellectual activities of the elites as separate from the masses; however, this essay will, too, aim to modify this view through accentuating the Armenian-ness of the work environment. This very real undercurrent of ethnic separation regarding the division of labour is important to acknowledge not only because of the national mobilization that it encouraged, but also because it led to its violent dispersal at the end of the century.26 The case of Sopon Bezirdjian, his biography, his working environment and his archive, which will be explored in this essay, exposes these elements of mobilisation and recrimination concurrent with Ottoman cosmopolitanism.

The Balyans and the Armenian production network

  • 27 The most recent example being the work of Selman Can who claims that Seyyid Abdülhalim Efendi was i (...)
  • 28 A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 2.

13Despite Turkish assertions to the contrary which have persisted since the nineteenth century itself,27 the Balyan family had served a role of central importance to the Ottoman sultan’s imperial building campaigns since at least the reign of Mahmud II.28 The members of the family had secured an unusually high degree of personal power over imperial architecture due to a number of factors that bolstered their position at court. They were able to take advantage of the decline of the bureaucratic office for building, through the strength of their personal networks that enabled them carry out large-scale public works broadly independent of state bodies. They had a cutting-edge education in Paris, which put them in contact with both a wider net of contacts and endowed them with the technical and intellectual skills that were needed to build Ottoman works at this time of modernising sultans joining the Concert of Europe.

  • 29 Agop is only mentioned from time to time: Journal Officiel de la République française, Paris, 17 No (...)
  • 30 A.N. Banoğlu, 1950. This article mentions about the building of the Dolmabahçe Palace stating that (...)
  • 31 See: A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 2.

14The 1860s to 1870s marked the peak of the operations of the Balyan family. At this time, Sopon Bezirdjian worked as a designer under the leadership of Serkis Balyan, assisted by his brother Agop. 29 Contrary, again, to a long Turkish tradition that the Balyans were not trained architects but rather business men responsible for contracting out building works,30 the evidence found in private archives, as well as Ottoman transactions that mention Serkis and others carrying out many of the former duties of imperial architects, show their creative involvement.31 Thus, determining the exact input of Sopon is somewhat difficult.

  • 32 Ibid., Ch. 4.

15Serkis Bey was not only a kalfa (master builder) trained by his father, but an architect and engineer, who had trained (at least partially), at the Sainte-Barbe, the École Centrale and the Beaux-Arts. His fluency in contemporary Parisian modes of architectural design is clear from evidence that survives in abundance, such as projects kept in the Nubarian Library in Paris [see figure 2].32 It can be ascertained from these drawings that Serkis took a high degree of involvement in the design of interiors. Sketches demarcate details such as the Bursa-style designs of the tiles adorning the walls, the neo-Islamic star motifs of the carving of the balustrades, and the pointed-arched Gothic windows lighting the dome. The fact that these detailed polychrome drawings are signed “Serkis Bey” also indicate that Serkis took some personal pride in his involvement in their design.

Figure 2 Coloured sketches of Çırağan Palace by Serkis Balyan
AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 33 These were held in the private collection of the Gurekian family in Asolo until recently being tran (...)
  • 34 Ö. Taşdelen et al., 2006, p. 24, lists the English and French Baccarat chandeliers, Murano chandeli (...)

16Further drawings that were formerly in the private archive of the architect Léon Gurekian show Serkis Balyan’s involvement not only in the design of entire interior schemes as shown in the Nubarian sketches, but also in individual items of furniture.33 Drawings include chairs, mirror frames, chandeliers, clocks, tables, stools and beds. Many of these sketches detail items of furniture that are instantly recognisable from the palaces of the Bosphorus as they stand today. For instance the mirror, now in Dolmabahçe, incorporating touches of Chinoiserie, and the curtain frames with their imperial iconography of the bouquet of roses or the tuğra (monogram) of the sultan. These sketches indicate that – contrary to the assertions of books and tour guides stressing the works of European furnishers34 – the majority of the domestic items were of Armenian authorship, many of them issuing from Serkis himself.

  • 35 Le Monde illustré, 31 March 1877, no. 1042.
  • 36 C. Göncü, 2006, p. 23.

17The executive role that Serkis held is not surprising given the evidence of his proximity to the sultan. Serkis Bey was described as a functionary of the imperial household, seated behind Abdülaziz’s throne in Le Monde Illustré which reported on opening of parliament in 1877.35 Serkis’ salary was indicated alongside minor members of the royal family in Ottoman documents. He was paid for individual jobs, such as the building of the Beylerbeyi Palace, by the office of the Sultan’s Chief Intimate (Serkurena). 36

  • 37 R. Hill, 2007, p. 378.

18Nevertheless, Serkis was not just a court functionary, but an efficient manager of imperial works in a rapidly industrialising empire. Serkis recognised that his time would be better spent by delegating aspects to well-qualified members of his team and he forms a parallel to the situation in Europe wherein interiors had been a matter of collaboration between the architect and craftsmen and parts were increasingly allocated to specialised interior designers. He provides a close corollary to individuals such as Pugin who although personally engaged in the design of much of their furniture and decoration, in the running of their large-scale works and who had their own regular team of craftsmen manufacturers, were also working in conjunction with external designers and companies.37

  • 38 La Jeune Turquie. Journal pour la défense des intérets de l’Empire ottoman, 9 July 1910, no. 15, p. (...)

19Serkis relied on a team of masters who were skilled in one area and were qualified to carry out this element to high specifications. Sopon Bezirdjian was one such master, who played a pivotal role in the designing of the interiors of the palaces of the 1860s to 1870s: Çırağan (1871) and Beylerbeyi (1865). Sopon did not work alone but in collaboration with master carpenter Vortik Kemhaciyan. As La Jeune Turquie from 1910 states, Bezirdjian “sous le règne du sultan Abdul Aziz, en collaboration avec Serkis Bey Balian et Vortig Bey, dirigea et dessina les merveilleuses décorations intérieures des palais impériaux à Constantinople […]”38

20Bezirdjian’s sketches, which we will return to shortly, show how he designed individual furniture items in detail, whether an extravagant gilded mirror frame or a petite cabinet with cleanly carved stepped vault [see figure 3]. Bezirdjian also designed painted decoration for walls: pinholes on tracing paper show that this was the destination of panels of ornament. His private notebook shows how he worked out amounts, dimensions and other calculations himself. This was analogous to the methods of Serkis Bey who also recorded the majority of his transactions privately: again, a point we will come back to later.

Figure 3 Sketch by Sopon Bezirdjian of Cupboard with Stepped-Vault
Image courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

  • 39 Levant Herald, 25 Jan. 1873. Tuğlacı mentions that Kemhaciyan’s workshop used steam saws, P. Tuğlac (...)
  • 40 E. Bourquelot, 1886, pp. 294-295.

21Bezirdjian did not make the designs himself but would forward them to Vortik Kemhaciyan. Kemhaciyan ran a workshop, described by the Levant Herald as a “factory”, and “a joint-stock enterprise” which used modern manufacturing techniques such as steam saws.39 Workshops of furnishers were widespread across Constantinople, including Kemhaciyan and Nalyan Frères, whose advertisements can be seen in the periodical press. French traveller Émile Bourquelot writes in 1886 of meeting with an Armenian “ébéniste” who made Oriental items such as “des fragments de moucharabié aux losanges à jour, des panneaux et des vantaux de bois sculpté ou s’entrecroisent des bas-reliefs composés d’entrelacs et autres dessins géométriques d’une fantaisie tout orientale.40

  • 41 G.A. Siddons (attributed), 1830, in G. Adamson (ed.), 2010, p. 43.
  • 42 The 1891 Census states that Sopon’s occupation was: “Artist, Portrait painting”.

22The division of labour in Europe had a negative effect on the ability of craftsmen to make entire pieces on their own and accrue income. A cabinet maker in 1830 told that: “[...] ‘the various trades of the Cabinet Maker, Chair Maker, Japanner, Gilder, and Lackerer [sic], are so intimately connected, that there is scarce a handsome piece of furniture where the combination of their joint efforts is not necessary [...] it is almost universally the case, that a workman in one branch is entirely ignorant of the methods used by another’ [...]”41 Indeed, Bezirdjian had to become more flexible when he moved away from the Balyan operations: in Victorian England he worked mainly as a portraitist.42

  • 43 C. Göncü, 2006, p. 27.
  • 44 Topkapı Palace Archive (TPA), D3217.

23The production network of Serkis Balyan did not exclusively consist of Armenian master craftsmen, designers and manufacturers, but this was a predominant element that is discernible in sources in several languages, and was an important factor aiding their success. Construction documents issued by the Ottoman bureaucracy regarding the building of the Beylerbeyi Palace, which have been studied by Cengiz Göncü, show that Serkis worked with assistant architects or supervisors (kalfa) who supervised aspects of the works, including Hacı Mıgırdiç Kalfa, Yuvan Kalfa and Senekerim Kalfa.43 Ottoman archival documentation about the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque sheds light on the local provenance of the majority of the craftsmen and suppliers employed on imperial works on a day-to-day basis. Many of the taşcı (stone mason/quarrymen) were Armenians (although not exclusively) such as Taşcı Hoca Melik and bricks were also overwhelmingly sourced from Armenians such as tuğlacı (brick maker/supplier) Serkis and Haçadur.44

  • 45 P. Tuğlacı 1990, appendix, “Document 138/I”, p. 725.
  • 46 Ibid., 1990, appendix, “Document 138/K”, p. 726.
  • 47 Ibid., 1990, appendix, “Document 138/O”, p. 726.
  • 48 Ibid., “Document 138/C”, p. 724.
  • 49 Ibid., 1990, “Document 138/C”, p. 724.
  • 50 Ibid., 1990, “Document 138/D”, p. 724.
  • 51 Ibid., 1990, “Document 138/E”, p. 724.

24Serkis worked with private shops and furnishers to acquire individual items to order, which are reflected in receipts reproduced in the work of Pars Tuğlacı, such as one account by Mardiros that lists furnishings constructed for the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque complex, including doors to the mausoleum.45 The purchasing of other items for that mosque is noted by further receipts for chandeliers,46 and candelabras and silver grilles were purchased from Çıracızade Serkis.47 Silverwork was purchased from Savagir in 1871;48 according to another receipt, items were purchased from the furniture supplier Nalyan Frères;49 the jewellers Boğos and Sebuh also supplied items in 1872,50 and in 1873.51

  • 52 Ottoman Archives (BBK) Evkaf Defteri 13761. A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 6. Edhem Eldem, who has worked on (...)
  • 53 BBK, HHd. Fezhane ve Fabrikalara ait Defterleri, Defter no. 18909, 1272.R.01-1272.R.01/1856, goods (...)

25Local Ottoman companies, many of which were run and staffed by Armenians, were engaged in supplying goods to Ottoman works carried out under the direction of Serkis. The building accounts of the Ortaköy Mosque include references to a brick company in Hasköy, which may be the same one that later became known as Şahbazian.52 Textiles for the Beşiktaş Palace were made in the Hereke factory, which was run by the Dadyan family.53

  • 54 Edward C. Clark gave an account of the “industrial revolution” of the empire as being in the hands (...)

26There were numbers of Levantines, Greeks, Turkish-Muslims, European citizens, even Russians and Persians employed in imperial works. However, the number of Armenian names is considerable and is misrepresented by references to cosmopolitanism. This is not to say that these Armenians were not attached to their Ottoman identity: this is a point that will be returned to when Sopon Bezirdjian’s archive is dealt within a later section of this essay. However, downplaying the Armenian nature of the contexts of the production of these nineteenth-century Ottoman architectural works undermines the uniqueness of the Armenian situation at that time.54

Sopon’s rising star: Teotig’s biography

  • 55 Sopon Bezirdjian’s birth is listed by Teotig as 1839. The 1891 Census states Bezirdjian was around (...)
  • 56 Teotig, 1912, p. 255. R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2010 p. 11. Davidian suggests that Teotig corresponde (...)
  • 57 Teotig, 1921, pp. 257-8.

27Sopon Bezirdjian was born in Constantinople in 1839 and died in London in 1915.55 The celebrated almanac of Teotig seems to have been the first source to provide Sopon’s biographical outline. Teotoros Lapçinciyan (Teotig) was a researcher who published a yearbook from 1907 to 1929 (moving from Constantinople to Paris in 1923).56 His biography of Sopon includes a stress on three aspects to his identity that are also common to Teotig’s descriptions of other Armenian cultural personalities such as the Balyans.57 These aspects are: their works for the sultan, international acclaim and Armenian national and charitable engagement.

  • 58 Teotig, 1912, p. 255.

28Teotig begins with Sopon’s artistic formation and early works for the sultan. He states that although Sopon’s father was an optician, he decided to be an artist and was trained at painting miniatures by specialists. Sopon’s earliest work, at the age of nineteen, was Izmit Imperial Pavilion. Following this he was appointed as “the sultan’s decorator”. In this post, Sopon worked on the palaces at Kağıthane, Çırağan and Sultan Abdülaziz (Սուլթան Ազիզի/Soultan Azizi, presumably referring to Beylerbeyi).58

  • 59 It is interesting that Teotig uses the French word here as well as placing only this word within (F (...)

29Teotig’s indication of the status of Sopon as “the sultan’s decorator” (պալատան տէքօղաթեօղ [baladan dekorateur])59 is reminiscent of the references to the Balyans in Armenian sources, including Teotig, as “imperial architect” (արքունի ճարտարապետ [arkouni jardarabed]). As for the case of the Balyans, the giving of such a title as an official rank was not possible, given the collapse of the imperial office that had controlled architectural works in 1831. However, it is likely that Sopon’s status as “the sultan’s decorator” was an honorary one reflecting his service at court. This was equivalent to the role of the Balyans, who were de facto imperial architects, even if they did not control the specific state office of the mimarbaşı and perform its bureaucratic functions.

30Elaborating on Teotig’s depiction of the status of Sopon and of the Balyans as the sultan’s favoured subjects – as important members of his court, recognised by honorary positions relating to his architectural and decorative programs – is significant for stressing the peculiarity of the Armenian relationship to the sultan and state. Both Sopon and Serkis Balyan (as well as his father Karapet who had held this role before him) were given a high degree of individual responsibility over architecture and decoration, respectively, which was not tied to any particular office but was connected to their personal relationship to the sultan and their relationship to each other (as Armenians and as members of the same team).

  • 60 Victoria and Albert Museum, Blythe House Archives, Abstracts of Correspondence, [Registered Paper n (...)

31Teotig moves on to describe the international acclaim that Sopon achieved during his lifetime. Teotig states that Sopon’s works were admired by visitors to Constantinople such as Ayvazovksy and Empress Eugénie. Teotig also describes Sopon as not just a decorator but an artist who produced paintings under the patronage of Sultan Abdülaziz, some of which remained, according to Teotig, in the India Museum in London. Teotig thus started to distance Sopon from imperial patronage and to reposition him in relation to the art market of Europe. The fact that some of these assertions may have been exaggerated is, however, indicated by the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (inheritor of the India Museum) records, which suggest that the items were offered but not taken.60

32Teotig then reiterates Sopon’s connections with oriental rulers. He states that “after his protector (պաշտպան) Sultan Aziz’s demise” Sopon made works under the Khedive Ismail in Egypt. Teotig implies that Sopon seems to have found a related favoured status under another westernizing Islamic monarch: Khedive Ismail.

  • 61 This point is clarified if one looks to Bezirdjian’s own book, published in 1889, which states on t (...)
  • 62 Teotig, 1912, p. 255. Bezirdjian’s commissions also included the Persian pavilion in the 1900 Paris (...)

33Teotig then returns to develop an impression of Sopon’s later professional career. He describes how after he had settled in London, Sopon became popular in Victorian high society. Teotig mentions that “Queen Victoria’s daughter Christine” was one of his admirers.61 Despite this acclaim in England, Sopon continued to hold a connection to his oriental roots and patronage: he was involved in the Paris 1900 Exposition, “planning a sizeable part of the Ottoman pavilion” and producing an album of oriental designs at this time.62

34Teotig then turns to paint a picture of Sopon as an Armenian patriot. He mentions that Sopon’s Armenian works included the Izmir Armenian Church, and the altar at the Etchmiadzin Holy See Cathedral, which was made by Sopon at the request of the Catholicos, in 1902. Sopon’s engagement in “Armenian national activities” (Ազգային գործերու) included his establishment of an Armenian school in Cairo. These features, again, echo the biographical accounts of the members of the Balyan family, who are described as supporting the development of Armenian schools, theatre and the new language.

  • 63 Iskender (or Theodore) was influential in printing and graphic art. Ahmet Ziya, “Nos compatriotes e (...)
  • 64 This same outline provided by Teotig has been repeated in G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 1, pp. 244-245 and (...)

35Teotig ends with a few remaining personal details. He states that Sopon was married to the actress Arousiag Papazian for a short time, and that his son, Theodore Birch, was Chairman of the Printing Press Union of Paris in 1925.63 Teotig adds (incorrectly) that Sopon was alive until 1920.64

36The account of Teotig clearly positions Bezirdjian as a notable personality of Armenian Constantinople. Bezirdjian is portrayed as a peer of the Balyans (who were much bigger names in the international press - mentioned in Le Monde Illustré and in European travellers’ accounts such as that of Théophile Gautier). Teotig stresses the Ottoman, Armenian and international prominence of Sopon, just as he did in his accounts of the Balyan family. The Balyans and Sopon Bezirdjian, Teotig is implying, were figures of consequence not only for the Armenian world but for the international stage: they were not just members of a collective; they were creative actors in their own right.

Sopon, through his archive: Orientalist, Ottoman, but, primarily, Armenian

37The archive of drawings that has been left to Sopon’s family through the generations since he passed away is unique: Only a few drawings have been located that relate to the imperial works of the Balyans - namely those in the collections of Gurekian and in the Nubarian. Ottoman plans and drawings are rare and no signed examples remain for the mosques or palaces of the nineteenth century.

38Sopon’s drawings cover a variety of subjects that shed light not only on his professional works as a designer-decorator, but on his self fashioning as a late nineteenth-century Armenian Ottoman. The high quality of these works, their range of artistic references, originality and Sopon’s dexterity with the pencil, justifies the status, endowed by Teotig’s biography, of Sopon as a seminal figure in Armenian cultural history. The drawings also reinforce the Ottoman and European credentials that Teotig saw as being key elements in the making of such an Armenian genius figure.

  • 65 Owen Jones published books on several of these styles, such as The Complete Chinese Ornament (1867)

39Bezirdjian’s drawings show an ability to manipulate patterns akin to the preeminent figure of European ornamental patterns of the nineteenth century, Owen Jones (1809-1874). As his sketches show, Sopon, like Jones, moves easily from Moorish and Arabian to chinoiserie and japonisme, to naturalistic studies of flowers, to the Italian Renaissance.65 Although Serkis Balyan’s sketches of furniture designs also encompassed designs for chairs, mirrors and other items in eclectic styles such as in a “salon chinois” or “gothique”, showing the popularity of these at court, Bezirdjian’s own drawings show a more detailed exploration of ornament itself.

Figure 4 Drawings of capitals by Sopon Bezirdjian
Images courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

  • 66 O. Jones, 1842-1845, 1856.
  • 67 Serkis and Agop Balyan had sent a team of artists to Spain and North Africa. It is not mentioned wh (...)

40Like Owen Jones, who travelled to the Alhambra to carry out fieldwork on its Islamic architecture,66 Bezirdjian made sketches of individual architectural and decorative components from historic buildings from the Islamic golden age. Pages of sketches depict distinctive capital types and multi-foil arches found in Cordoba [see figure 4]. It is likely that these sketches were made when Bezirdjian travelled to Spain with a delegation sent by Serkis and Agop Balyan.67 A further indication of his travels is a photograph remaining in Sopon’s archive that shows a wooden carved and inlaid door that may date from the heyday of Islamic Spain/North Africa [see figure 5]. Sopon was to recreate such doors in the Çırağan Palace interiors, which are shown in nineteenth century photographs that survive.

Figure 5 Photograph of Carved Wooden Door
(Possibly from Islamic Spain or North Africa), Sopon Bezirdjian
Image courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

41A large body of Bezirdjian’s drawings deal with Ottoman motifs and patterns. Bezirdjian recreates these patterns with great detail and cultural specificity: such as the interlocking floriated scrolls of “Golden Horn” ceramics [see figure 6], carnations seen on Iznik, or the arabesques seen in tiled friezes in the mosques of Bursa. Such ability to portray local detail indicates that Sopon had travelled within the empire (seeing the varieties of Ottoman decorative arts in situ in mosques, palaces and pavilions) and, at least, had seen a variety of ceramics in person.

Figure 6 Drawing of Golden Horn Style Ceramics, Sopon Bezirdjian
Image courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

42Bezirdjian’s was not purely a retrospective attachment to the Ottoman culture of the past: some of his designs show an evocation of his pride in his modern Ottoman identity. One sketch shows a romantic vista of the Galata tower: such views were popular in Ottoman “westernized” interiors and were seen in the Dolmabahçe Palace of 1856, for instance. Other sketches show Sopon’s numerous designs of the tuğra (sultan’s monogram) and his attempts to write in the distinctively Ottoman thuluth (sülüs) calligraphic script. Nevertheless, the fact that Sopon was, in his sketches, evidently not comfortable with drawing the letters of the Arabic script suggests that he did not use it in his everyday life and thus was, to an extent, disconnected from some aspects of Ottoman (official) culture.

  • 68 Thus this follows Smith’s notion of “ethnies” or ethno-cultural communities, whose ethnic belonging (...)
  • 69 E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, 1983; B. Anderson, 1983. On the Armenian case, which under the Russian E (...)

43Bezirdjian’s Armenian subjects are no less meticulous in their attention to correct historical detail. His archive contains a series of drawings of medieval churches. However, some of the Armenian works are different from the others in his archive in that they are explicitly symbolic. Whereas the drawings of the tuğra or the Galata tower evoked an affinity to the place of Istanbul or to the Ottoman dynasty, the Armenian sketches include elements that give more unambiguous meanings related to developing ideas of national identity. Some drawings depict primordial symbols, mythological figures and landscapes, which, although central to Armenian oral traditions and memory, were not generally used in visual arts before the nineteenth century and are characteristic of ethno-nationalism.68 However, in contrast to modernist theories of nationalism, viewing these symbols as “invented” by the state and used as a means of control, the evidence of Sopon’s sketches indicates a more organic development of Armenian visual symbolism, from the inside.69

44Furthermore, these Armenian-audience-specific designs, at the same time as including elements of ethno-symbolism, also show variety in their cultural references (unlike Sopon’s Islamic designs, which are more archaeologically-correct). Therefore this cannot yet be considered an inevitable rise to nationalism, but, rather, an increasingly clear articulation of Armenian-ness in the form of cultural symbols, but within an Ottoman (or oriental) decorative framework.

  • 70 A. Hacikiyan et al., 2005, p. 592; K. Tölölyan, 1999, pp. 79-102.
  • 71 L. Nalbandian, 1963, p. 39.
  • 72 R.G. Suny, 2001.

45One significant example of such a tendency is a sketch that was presumably a commission destined for an Armenian patron (indicated by the use of Armenian letters). It shows a framing composition (of unclear function), adorned with oriental, specifically neo-Islamic ornament, and a central representation of Mount Ararat [see figure 7]. The mountain was a “topographical symbol [...] of Armenian national consciousness”, which had long existed in folklore and literature.70 It proliferated as an iconic representation of modern Armenian national identity during the nineteenth century due to the publicity of events such as (promoter of the new Armenian language) Khachatur Abovian’s climbing expedition of 1829.71 Later it would become part of the “constructed primordialism” of the Armenian coat-of-arms.72 However, its placement within the oriental-Islamic ornamental frame, shows how Ararat had, at this point in the mid-to-late nineteenth century (unfortunately very few of Sopon’s sketches are dated), not yet developed exclusively into a nationalistic totem, but was still somewhat of a picturesque element of a collage of identity symbols and references.

Figure 7 Drawing of Frame with Ararat by Sopon Bezirdjian
Image courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

  • 73 Jones encouraged calligraphy’s uses in a pattern book on illuminated letters. O. Jones, 1864.
  • 74 A. Ersoy, 2000, pp. 193-194; K. Pamukciyan, 1990, pp. 34-41; O. Avédissian, 1959, pp. 399-400.
  • 75 The function of these compositions is not clear. There are several with such Armenian inscriptions (...)

46Like Owen Jones, Bezirdjian engaged in an interest in calligraphy.73 Bezirdjian’s calligraphic sketches are also a good place to turn to stress the mixed visual references of the nineteenth century Armenian Ottoman setting. These include imitations of Islamic scripts: such as a pseudo-Kufic frieze in the manner of the tile work of Ottoman Bursa. Krikor Köçeoğlu, an Orientalist painter educated at the École Muradian in Paris connected to the group behind the 1873 texts, used Kufic in his decoration of the Kızıltoprak Mosque.74 The style of calligraphy was revived more thoroughly under Abdülhamid II in the Yıldız Mosque and in furniture that the sultan made. However, Sopon was not just a forerunner in looking to past styles of Ottoman calligraphy, but also made designs in the thuluth calligraphic roundels of the kind found in the nineteenth century mosques. Sopon made several designs of the sultan’s tuğra, which was also a prominent element of the iconography of the nineteenth-century sultans. Furthermore, in his designs for the framing composition with Ararat [see figure 6] Bezirdjian merged the format of an Ottoman calligraphic cartouche with the Armenian script, which was written in the curved style of thuluth.75 This shows, again, how Bezirdjian configured a key symbol of Armenian identity (the holy letters of the Armenian script) within an Ottoman frame and decorative vocabulary.

Figure 8 Hayastan by Sopon Bezirdjian
Image courtesy of Mr and Mrs Clark, London
[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]

47A rather different example is a print captioned “ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆ” (Hayastan [“Armenia”], see figure 8), which shows a personification of Armenia. The poster depicts, after the manner of Delacroix’s Athena in Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826), Hayastan amongst her own ruins with inscriptions (indicating places in Ottoman Armenia/Turkey such as Van [Վան]), discarded weapons and a pastoral landscape with mountain in the background. From its connection (in terms of subject matter and iconography) to Delacroix’s seminal example and the parallel between the Greeks and Armenians’ suffering under the “Ottoman yoke”, as well as from the content of the poster itself (the wrecked Armenian towns and villages), it can be assumed that this poster was made following the Armenian massacres of the 1890s. However, unlike Delacroix’s Athena, who is a panic-stricken and sexualised (with chest exposed) victim of Oriental despotism, Bezirdjian’s Hayastan is serene and dignified. She is surrounded by symbols of Armenian-ness that had, by that time, become more entrenched in the Armenian art world: Mount Ararat stands in the place of the Terrible Turk depicted in Delacroix’s work. This image signals that Sopon had, by the turn of the century, a sophisticated knowledge of how national causes could be effectively represented through the visual arts, along French academic lines. However, he eschews romantic clichés for a less emotive and more accurate vision of Armenian identity, which we will return to at the end of this essay.

Figure 9 Sketch of Altarpiece (Possibly Etchmiadzin) by Sopon Bezirdjian
Image courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

  • 76 Following the excavations of Ani from 1892 and Zvartnots from 1905, and the publishing of works by (...)

48Sopon’s design for an altarpiece [see figure 9], which is the most likely candidate for that of Etchmiadzin Cathedral mentioned by Teotig as commissioned in 1902, also indicates that Armenian national imagery was still in a state of flux. The design largely avoids the use of unequivocally Armenian motifs. Instead only small cherubim and mixed ornament (chevrons, palmettes and tendrils), adorn a sparse and geometric frame, with a lamb of god placed in the lower register. The current Etchmiadzin altarpiece [see figure 10] contrasts with its more striking use of symbols of national identity such as eagles and quotations of ornament from Armenian medieval churches.76 This shows, again, how Sopon’s archive documents a transitional moment in the articulation of Armenian identity through visual means. Sopon stands on the cusp: at the moment when Armenians were beginning to use symbols to reflect group solidarity through a new vocabulary. However, his case implies how complex this process of change was from the inside.

Figure 10 Altarpiece in Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia
[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]

Sopon and his book of Oriental designs: Ottoman-ness and Armenian-ness in Victorian London

  • 77 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 3.
  • 78 C. Gere, 1989, p. 47.
  • 79 J. Cooper, 1987, p. 15.

49Bezirdjian published a book of “Oriental designs” in 1889, in which he presented himself as somewhat of a design theorist, due, primarily, to an introductory text in which he wrote at length about his professional situation and his approach to oriental art.77 With this text, Bezirdjian was participating in the fashion for pattern books that had swept Europe following the lead of Percier and Fontaine in France and, by the mid century had made way for middle-class mass consumption.78 Owen Jones was a key figure in this development and designed a vast array of goods such as wall-covers, carpets, silks and biscuit tin labels.79

Figure 11 “Persian Style” from L’Albert. Album des beaux-Arts contenant des dessins en style pur oriental pour la décoration et l’industrie, par Sopon Bézirdjian, artiste-dessinateur, Paris, 1900, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

50Similarly to Jones’ Grammar of Ornament (1856), Bezirdjian, in the design plates that make up the majority of his book, not only labelled but actually differentiated between the three national styles that, according to him, made up oriental ornament: “Arab”, “Persian” and “Turkish”. Like Jones, Bezirdjian’s plates showed how each style has its own grammar of ornament. The “Persian style” [see figure 11], as delineated by Bezirdjian, included predominantly floral, animal, bird and fish motifs. Bezirdjian’s “Arab style” [see figure 12] was more severe, with a greater stress on the geometric. Bezirdjian’s vision of the “Turkish style” [see figure 13] had arabesque and rumi patterns, even some geometric(ized) tulips.

Figure 12 “Arabian Style” from L’Albert. Album des beaux-Arts contenant des dessins en style pur oriental pour la décoration et l’industrie, par Sopon Bézirdjian, artiste-dessinateur, Paris, 1900, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 80 On the contradictions of Jones’ approach to the Alhambra see: L. Eggleton, 2012, pp. 9-13.

51As was seen from Sopon’s drawing archive, these designs were based on study of historical models. However these designs were much simplified from the accurate sketches that Bezirdjian made of historical originals, and the ornament was enlivened through the use of bright primary colours and gilding. They were transposed into the form of patterns made for coating objects (sometimes belonging to very different settings from their original contexts): designs for pockets, for table covers and even a tea cosy. All of these elements were in common with Owen Jones: most notably the differentiation of styles and the academic fieldwork laying behind them - although historic details were, in both cases, subsumed into a modern design agenda. 80

Figure 13 “Turkish Style” from L’Albert. Album des beaux-Arts contenant des dessins en style pur oriental pour la décoration et l’industrie, par Sopon Bézirdjian, artiste-dessinateur, Paris, 1900, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

52Where Bezirdjian differed from Jones was in his inclusion of key heraldic elements that brought these national styles into the present (and related them to their current leadership). One plate from the “Arab style” depicted a crescent and star motif, a plate from the “Turkish style” depicted the sultan’s tuğra, and one plate from the “Persian style” depicted a bird with outstretched wings (see figure 11, possibly the Faravahar, which was an element on the imperial coat of arms). This difference was elucidated by Bezirdjian’s own text. The tuğra is also shown as a side blazon on the plate for the Arab style, along with a royal coat of arms. This coat of arms includes British heraldic symbols such as a pair of guarding lions and the crown of feathers of the prince of wales, alongside the star and crescent (all shown in figure 12). This, again, underlines Sopon’s conception of dynastic and monarchical power as key determinants over the rule of oriental peoples, as an equivalent to the monarchy of Britain.

  • 81 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 5.

53Despite these Anglophile tendencies, Bezirdjian expressed a preoccupation with the potential for simplification and inaccuracy within the practice of “Oriental Art” in Europe. He wrote that: “Obviously, to obtain a practical acquaintance with anything, it is necessary to closely examine that thing and to thoroughly penetrate its nature. Now, it is certain that in many instances Oriental peoples are improperly represented to Western nations, and receive gross injustice at the hands of critics who themselves have erroneous and even absurd notions.”81

  • 82 Ibid., 1889, p. 7.
  • 83 Ibid., 1889, p. 7.

54Bezirdjian insisted for the suitability of an academic methodology. He described how he became aware “during my experience in Europe” that “when we desire to have a thorough knowledge of a nation, past or present [...] it is of the utmost importance [...] to closely examine with unprejudiced wide open eyes, and to have some familiar intercourse with the natives themselves.”82 Bezirdjian reminded the Victorian audience of his book “Oriental nations are, indeed our brothers and equals [...]”.83

  • 84 Illustrated London News, 14 Aug. 1854, features Oscanyan’s museum. It is interesting that these ide (...)
  • 85 C. Oscanyan, 1857, p. 11.

55Another Armenian writing in the nineteenth century, Christopher (Hachik) Oscanyan, had remarkably similar aims and approaches. Oscanyan with Serovpe Aznavour established a museum in London in 1854 to represent the Ottoman Empire to the British public.84 In this museum Oscanyan claimed to be correcting mistakes about the Ottoman Empire. Oscanyan’s intentions were expressed in his book, The Sultan and his People (1857), which complained about those who did not know the “Oriental dialects” (i.e. how to study in an academic way) and thus failed to understand Ottoman culture. Yet, the book repeated Orientalist clichés of Ottoman peoples exemplifying the Biblical record, and perpetuated charming and romantic vistas (“[a] robed and turbaned Moslem, with stately step and meditative countenance, passes beneath your latticed casement”).85

  • 86 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 4. Bezirdjian explicitly mentions Parvillée as working on the palaces of Ab (...)
  • 87 Levant Herald, 10 Jan. 1867.
  • 88 Levant Herald, 19 Feb. 1867.
  • 89 La Turquie, 30 Sept. 1868, no. 510.
  • 90 L. Parvillée, 1874.

56Similar calls for the academic study and accurate representation of Ottoman culture were seen in Constantinople, as reflected, for instance, in the writings of another fellow worker on the Balyans’ imperial works: Léon Parvillée (the French architect, decorator, ceramicist and theorist).86 Parvillée had not only been employed on the palaces of the 1850s onwards but had worked on the 1867 Ottoman exposition pavilion. The Levant Herald noted that this was “typical of the best styles of architecture and decoration of the Ottoman Empire”,87 showing how the works were viewed at the time to be a return to local traditions. Indeed, they encompassed an attempt towards an academic, ethnographic, approach: the visitor could sip a mocha served by a local and “smoke his narghile with ease”; a house of an inhabitant from Lebanon was “built on the exact model of an ancient dwelling”.88 Parvillée was outspoken in 1868 of his desire to produce “une étude sérieuse des beaux-arts”, which would lead to a renaissance in Ottoman architecture.89 He produced such a text a few years later.90

  • 91 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 3.
  • 92 Ibid., p. 3.
  • 93 Ibid., p. 4.
  • 94 Bezirdjian also praised Leighton’s presidency of the Academy in stimulating the new generation. S.  (...)

57The academic study of Oriental cultures did not, in Bezirdjian’s mind, preclude an appreciation of the aesthetic power of these works. Bezirdjian noted that “the great aim and end of art is to impart pleasure”.91 He described art from the Orient as art in: “its richest and most creative forms”.92 Bezirdjian also wrote that Sultan Abdülaziz developed a fondness for “purely decorative art”. 93 With these words, Bezirdjian was clearly aiming for the attention of the Aesthetes who were dominant in art discourse in Victorian England at this time. He seems to have been somewhat successful in this: Frederic Leighton himself stated Bezirdjian’s designs were “elegant and effective” and he was “in sympathy” with his ideas about oriental ornament.94

  • 95 Le Monde illustré, 30 Oct. 1868, no. 655, pp. 277-278.
  • 96 F. Yenişehirlioğlu, 2006, pp. 57-89.

58The “Persian”, “Turkish” and “Arab” designs that Bezirdjian put forward in his book were thus an attempt to reposition oriental art as, at once, an aesthetic pleasure, as a style with specific historical pedigree, and as being modernized under current sultans, khedives and shahs. This same logic was expressed in the architectural works that Sopon Bezirdjian had been involved in twenty years earlier: the Beylerbeyi and Çırağan palaces. These works mixed aesthetic power, archaeological-correctness, dynastic symbolism and rhetoric upholding the regeneration of the empire. One single example encapsulating these elements is a column capital in the Beylerbeyi Palace [see figure 14], which can be matched to Bezirdjian’s drawings [see figure 7], perhaps made during his visit to Spain. Here, the neo-Islamic column is recreated in bright colours for aesthetic impact: its turquoise was specifically mentioned by Le Monde Illustré.95 These revivalist details were positioned alongside inscriptions that hailed the renewal of the empire itself, under Abdülaziz.96

Figure 14 Capitals in Beylerbeyi Palace, 1865
[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]

  • 97 A. Ersoy, 2003, pp. 187–207.
  • 98 M. de Launay et al., 1873, p. 16.

59Concerns for the correct representation of the Ottoman Empire and its traditions were indeed shared by the group who were responsible for the 1873 exposition texts. The Elbise drew attention to the value of regional “costumes” and craft productions over imported, mass-produced items;97 and the Usul advocated a revival of “the original features of Ottoman architecture”.98 However, these texts were produced after such ideas had been circulating for some time, through other agents such as Parvillée and Oskanyan, and would later be enshrined in Bezirdjian’s text. Instead, the contexts of the production of these architectural works, and their abrupt termination, were ultimately tied up with Armenian identity and not the Usul group. The operations of the Balyan family consisted of a personal monopoly that was dependent, to a large extent, upon the favour of the sultan.

  • 99 A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 7.

60In the late 1870s, the Balyan operations ran into disaster. Serkis took on the projects of the Aziziye Mosque and Akaretler apartments in the early 1870s; these were then forced to come to a halt due to the defaulting of the Ottomans on their international loans and the treasury becoming unable to pay both Serkis’ salary and those of his employees. Petitions of unpaid furnishers and workmen were numerous by the early 1880s. Serkis Bey was tried and found guilty of embezzlement, which heralded the breakup of his large-scale works. Serkis was also accused, shortly after, of connections to the Hnchak organisation of Armenian radicals.99

  • 100 R. Hill, 2007, p. 92.
  • 101 BBK, HR.TO, D:438, G:78, 1861.11.30, reply to petition of Keresteci Kurdoğlu. This was a petition a (...)

61The actions against Serkis took a strikingly personal dimension. Although referred to in some documents as “the former chief architect of state”, Serkis was overwhelmingly called by his name, “Serkis” or “Serkis Bey”. It was not the state offices supervising the financial dealings of the building projects that were investigated, but Serkis’ own notebooks, showing he had a high degree of personal involvement in the transactions (like Pugin, who kept notes in his personal diary).100 Despite a prior claim in a petition that the role of the Balyans was one of “a simple intermediary”101 (between state and the Balyans’ own personal contacts with furnishers and suppliers), when the state ran out of money, it was Serkis that became personally responsible.

  • 102 BBK, HR.TO, D: 464, G:57, 1878.9.8.
  • 103 BBK, HR.TO, D:464, G:57, 1878.9.8.

62That those filing petitions were not Armenians is significant. Indeed, one of the figures leading the demands was from the group involved in the 1873 exposition texts: Eugène Maillard. He, along with Savriyo Kalfa, submitted a petition in 1878 on behalf of: “MM. Chouzery, Charles Bailly, Alexandre Augière, négociants français, Pietro Tedeschi, Anglais, Gallerini, Haliey, Guirot, Autrichien, Gabriel, Russe et Calcinoff, Charhaz et Altecherdjian, persans, ainsi que d’autres fournisseurs, entrepreneurs et ouvriers, créanciers des travaux exécutés à la Mosquée Aziziye et à l’Akaret.102 In other words, a group of international craftsman and suppliers who wished to be paid for their involvement in the Aziziye Mosque and Akaretler apartment building works. The petition stated that this group had been trying to obtain payment for three years for their contributions and they had decided that: “In the likely case that the Imperial Treasury does not possess at the time the necessary funds for payment, the creditors expressed their consent to receive from Serghis balances for their claims.”103

  • 104 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 7.

63It is clear from these petitions that by the late 1870s the monopoly, which Serkis Balyan had been able to achieve over the construction of imperial works in the 1860s and 1870s, had collapsed. Sopon moved to England at some point surrounding this collapse, most likely around 1880. Sopon himself is very sensitive in his communication of this catastrophic situation. He does not write any negative comments about Abdülhamid II. Ever the pragmatist, Sopon stresses the point that the West must strive to greater understand the relationship between the sultan and his “rayahs”: that this image is “in need of correction”. Instead Sopon stresses the sultan’s proximity to Christians in different spheres and he mentions prominent Armenians in the government such as Agop Pasha (Minister of Finance).104 Sopon, like Oskanyan, continued to identify himself in Victorian England as a faithful subject of the Ottoman sultan. It is even more striking that he continues to do so despite the contemporary treatment of Serkis Balyan that must have pushed Sopon to resettle in Manchester.

64Sopon makes only very brief references in the book to the situation of “my own nation”. Sopon states that “the Armenian Nation” is largely unknown in Europe and consists of “the minor portion, where will be found wealthy and most distinguished personages”, as well as the inhabitants of Europe “all of whom are rich merchants” but the majority of “handcraftsmen, workmen, agricultural labourers etc.” Sopon seems, through these lines, to define his national identity not according to territory, but through reference to different groups of people.

  • 105 Ibid., p. 8.
  • 106 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 8.
  • 107 Ibid., 1889, p. 8.

65Sopon does not draw attention to the plight of the Armenians as victims, although noting their being misunderstood and neglected, but stresses “a man must only hope for success by patience and hard labour, and, moreover, by always walking in the right path. There, indeed he will find numberless friends among those who have risen to aid him.”105 Bezirdjian writes that man (i.e. Armenians) should not expect help from others but should feel bound to help those around him in any way he can: “Then, not only will Sultans, Kings, and Shahs sympathise with and aid him, but all the world will do so too.”106 This thought was likely influenced by his contact with the priest of the Manchester Armenian Church, Soukias Baronian. It also connects to Sopon’s depiction of Hayastan not as ravished victim, like Delacroix’s Athena, but as dignified and possessed of inner strength. Although Sopon added, at the end of his text, that he intended to compile a second book “dealing more particularly with the Armenian Nation and their position,” 107 this book seems never to have been written.

  • 108 British National Archives, FO78/4334 (and printed on 2 Dec. 1890 in the Levant Herald); Başbakanlık (...)

66Sopon’s words illustrate the status of Ottoman Armenians and their self perception as the sultan’s faithful society (millet-i sadıka). He describes one of the key characteristics of Armenians as “fidelity” (along with equality and humanity). Serkis Balyan, too, despite his poor treatment from the state, continued to present himself in public as a faithful subject. This was a common feature amongst the Armenian notables of Constantinople, as is expressed by a petition from 1890 sent to Abdülhamid II – including Serkis Balyan as a signatory – that presents the community as “la fidèle communauté arménienne, and rails against those who use publications and illegal means to defame the community.108 In contrast, these notables presented themselves as the legitimate spokespeople.

67However, behind the scenes, there was clearly a rising consciousness. Ethno-symbolism such as the image of Ararat, started to come to the fore in private representations such as the frame commissioned from Bezirdjian. The writing of biographical accounts by Teotig added to the celebration of individual contributions of Armenian genius figures, as opposed to their representation as Ottoman subjects rooted only to the cultural and social environment of Constantinople.

  • 109 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 8.
  • 110 A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 7.

68This rising consciousness would have been encouraged in group settings that consisted exclusively of Armenians, such as the workshops and building sites of the Balyans. These works relied on migratory labour, such as hamals and rençper. As Sopon stated in his writing, these workers were “imperfectly understood and often entirely neglected”.109 Whilst their communal leaders were supportive of the leadership and encouraging the hierarchy of Ottoman society (through activities such as church building and other charitable works), such labourers would have followed orders. However, once the leaders, such as Serkis Balyan, began to experience hardships and develop private clandestine links (such as Serkis’ connections to Athens, Batumi and elsewhere put forward by Ottoman documentation that accuses him of sending suspicious packages to these locations and corresponding with “troublemakers” such as Simon Manukyan in London),110 the masses could become mobilised.

69The case of Sopon Bezirdjian therefore shows a crucial moment in the transition from “the faithful community” to increasing private expressions of a Armenian national identity. This situation was exasperated by the political hardships facing prominent figures such as Serkis Balyan (and Sopon himself: hence he left the empire). The unravelling was also accelerated by the ethnic groupings (and social groupings) that were supplied ready-made in arenas of production such as the building sites of the Balyan family.

70This state of affairs – and the strong degree of ethnic segregation that lay behind it – is essential for viewing nineteenth century Ottoman architecture. This is not to say that the “rise of nationalism” paradigm, only recently cast off, should be reapplied to these Ottoman works: this would be anachronistic because of the diverse nature of Ottoman society that did feed into the buildings. However, conversely, the use of terms such as cosmopolitanism ignores that already in the 1870s there were considerable tensions afoot.

*

71The case of Sopon Bezirdjian, his biography compiled by Teotig and his archive of drawings, illustrates that although the artistic references of Armenian creative figures may have continued to be varied into the early twentieth century, the setting in which they were operating was becoming increasingly volatile. Sketches by Sopon that show Mount Ararat and the personification of Hayastan, demonstrate how the group consciousness of Armenians was showing the tendency to be expressed along more exclusive, ethnic lines. The biographical account of Teotig also indicates at the desire of Armenian notables such as Serkis Balyan and Sopon Bezirdjian to stand out as creative figures not only within the Armenian community, or within the Ottoman Empire, but on the international stage.

72The evidence relating to Sopon has shown, however, that this transformation from “the faithful community” to political radicalisation was not as straightforward as has been represented in the nationalist historiographies. The evidence of Sopon’s biography, his 1889 text and his drawings, shows how elite Armenians continued to have strong allegiances to the Ottoman sultan and these were expressed in public well into the reign of Abdülhamid II. Not only this, but these Armenians showed pride in their identity as orientals (also as the favoured subjects of the shah and the khedive), in the distinct heritage of their oriental lands and in the modernising current identities of these empires, which were positioned, with their coats of arms, alongside that of Britain on the cover of Bezirdjian’s 1889 text.

73This continued commitment of Armenians such as Sopon to their Ottoman and oriental identity should not be categorised simply as a reflection of the cosmopolitanism of nineteenth-century Constantinople. Certainly, many of the attitudes they held were widely circulated within the city. However, their particular zeal for their oriental protectors was, in part, also the reflection of their precarious status as “the favoured society” of the sultan and its psychology.

  • 111 M. Levinger and P.F. Lytle, 2001. On the part of “narratives of communal decline and redemption” in (...)

74Moreover, as this essay has stressed, the ethnic separation of the building trade in which individuals like Sopon and Serkis Balyan were working was predominant in the nineteenth century - despite elites mixing in societies, cafes, theatres and at balls. Therefore, Sopon, Serkis and the teams that worked below them on a daily basis built up a group solidarity that was of considerable strength and which, when Serkis ran into difficulties, could easily have been triggered into extreme reactions. Such consequences would have been made progressively more likely when accompanied by emotive symbolism, such as that seen in Sopon’s Hayastan image, which, although depicting the difficulties of the present, also presented a utopian impression of inner strength that gave hope for the future.111

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Notes

1 The work of Pars Tuğlacı is the prime example of this: Tuğlacı identifies a number of Armenian craftsmen employed on the Dolmabahçe Palace (1856) such as Krikor Malakyan, Bedros Sırabıyan, Hacı Mıgırdiç Çarkiyan, Sopon Bezirciyan, Ohannes Ajemiyan and David Triantz and Kapriyel Kalfa (Mıgırdiçiyan). P. Tuğlacı, 1990, p. 180.

2 When I refer to Turkish scholarship I am talking about works produced within the academic environment in Turkey. As authors such as Pancaroğlu have shown, there has long been a tradition of academic formalism, especially within the art historical establishment, which has led to Turkey’s architectural history being interpreted in a narrow way. O. Pancaroğlu, 2007, pp. 67-78.

3 H. Kuruyazıcı, 2010.

4 Teotig, 1912, p. 255. R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2010.

5 http://cdn.iksv.org/media/content/files/14B_Catalogue.pdf (last accessed 11 Nov. 2015).

6 Medz Yeghern was used by President Obama in recent years to describe the Armenian Genocide of 1915 as it means “Great Calamity”. Hayots tseghaspanutyun (“Armenian genocide”) was not used.

7 Zachary Cahill, “Michael Rakowitz”, Art Forum, 18 Aug. 2015, http://artforum.com/words/id=54249 (last accessed 13 Nov. 2015).

8 http://cdn.iksv.org/media/content/files/14B_Catalogue.pdf XLVIII (last accessed 13 Nov. 2015).

9 http://cdn.iksv.org/media/content/files/14B_Catalogue.pdf (last accessed 12 Nov. 2015), “Introduction” XLIII.

10 Alpesh Kantilal Patel, “Gathering Gossip and Parsing Truth at the Istanbul Biennial”, Hyperallergic, 27 Oct. 2015, http://hyperallergic.com/248324/gathering-gossip-and-parsing-truth-at-the-istanbul-biennial/ (last accessed 13 Nov. 2015).

11 Abrams Amah-Rose, “Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s Istanbul Biennial Makes Political Statements With Outstanding Art”, Artnet News, 4 Sept. 2015, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/istanbul-biennial-2015-saltwater-330449 (last accessed 13 Nov. 2015). The international news coverage did indeed repeatedly use the word genocide in English, which is something that was most likely borne in mind by Christov-Bakargiev, the Armenian organisations and financers involved.

12 Regarding one past exhibition that exposed some murky relations of Koç Holdings: E. Kavcar, 2014, p. 201.

13 http://100years100facts.com/facts/turkeys-economy-today-based-part-confiscated-armenian-property/ (last accessed 28 Nov. 2015).

14 Amy Mills has critiqued the attention paid to “Old Istanbul” in recent years without confronting the power structures that led to the violence of the past. A. Mills, 2005, pp. 441-462 and 2008, pp. 383-401.

15 On Serkis’ downfall, see: A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 7. There were references to 1915 in the artwork, through the incorporation of animal bones, claimed to be from seized Armenian properties, but the stress on the transmission of craft from Cezayirliyan to Cimbiz in the 1980s, rather than the seizure of the position of architect from Serkis Balyan, serves to situate this example in a timeless, mythologized space. In contrast, a recent catalogue of Serkis Balyan’s drawings printed in Armenia states that these craftsmen’s shops, including Cezayirliyan’s, were related to the Balyans. A. Haykazun, 2015, p. 17.

16 F. Akozan, 1983.

17 The orthography used over the years has varied: Zeynep Çelik wrote, “Usul-u Mimari-i Osmani”. Z. Çelik, 1986 p. 148. Bozdoğan wrote “Usul-i Mimari-yi Osmani”. S. Bozdoğan, 2001, p. 312. Ahmet Ersoy writes “Usul-i Mi ‘mari-i ‘Osmani”. A. Ersoy 2015, p. 4.

18 Ersoy states in a footnote: “Agop and Serkis must have been outsiders to the close professional/intellectual circle that had formed around the figure of Ibrahim Edhem and the Ministry of Public Works. They must have been regarded more as kalfas, men of practice, by the intellectually inclined authors of the Usul.” A. Ersoy, 2000, p. 312.

19 A. Ersoy, 2000, p. 311.

20 Ibid., 2015. The book’s stress on the Usul as the moment of “reconfiguration” moves the focus away from the Balyans as creative actors, as does his stress on the diverse group behind the text and their “cosmopolitan commitments” (p. 91). Armenians are most frequently referred to as part of “a non-Muslim group” (p. 92).

21 For instance, Ersoy reproduces project drawings of the Çırağan Palace (A. Ersoy, 2015, Figure 4.16) which were published in Tuğlacı’s book and wrongly attributed to Nigoğos Balyan.

22 Although Ersoy does dismiss the earlier claims of Halil Edhem that Montani was designer of the Pertevniyal Valide Mosque, on the basis that construction documents are signed by Agop and Serkis Balyan, he does stress Montani’s role in the team as decorator. A. Ersoy 2015, pp. 118-119. The recent work of Anna McSweeney, likewise, manages to discuss the interiors of the palaces of the 1860s to 1870s with few references to the Balyans and their team, preferring to focus more on description of an “Alhambresque” fashion, the involvement of Europeans and the points of Ersoy about the importance of the Usul. A. McSweeney, 2015, pp. 44-69.

23 For instance an obituary by Krikor Odian of his friend Niğogos Balyan, which talks extensively about Nigoğos’ intellectual influences and status as romantic revivalist architect. Meğu, 10 March 1858.

24 There are many examples of this kind of study that views the younger generation of Armenians as awakened by their educational experience in Paris and ignores their continued commitment to their Ottoman identity, for instance, V. Artinian, 1988, p. 59, and J. Etmekjian, 1964, p. 101.

25 M. Levinger and P.F. Lytle, 2001, pp. 175-194.

26 Marx stressed the international solidarity of the proletariat over their development of national solidarity. In contrast, he viewed the bourgeois owners of capital as those supportive of the nation. J.A. Petrus, 1971, p. 805. On the obsession of the CUP with regaining control of the ethnic division of labour from the Armenians see: ÜÜngör, 2009, p. 12.

27 The most recent example being the work of Selman Can who claims that Seyyid Abdülhalim Efendi was in fact responsible for their works. S. Can, 2002.

28 A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 2.

29 Agop is only mentioned from time to time: Journal Officiel de la République française, Paris, 17 Nov. 1870, no. 319, states “imperial architects” Agop and Serkis received orders “de présenter les comptes exacts de la construction du nouveau palais de Tscheragian”.

30 A.N. Banoğlu, 1950. This article mentions about the building of the Dolmabahçe Palace stating that the identity of the architect responsible for the plan was unspecified, but that one “Hacı Kalfa” (Karapet Serkis Ağa), a well-known craftsman, was responsible for supervising the project and given a salary of three and a half million gold coins. This is referenced in Y.G. Çark, 1953, p. 75, as an implication that Karapet Balyan was not able to design works and was a kalfa not a mimar – a debate which was taken up also by Selman Can.

31 See: A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 2.

32 Ibid., Ch. 4.

33 These were held in the private collection of the Gurekian family in Asolo until recently being transferred to the National Museum Institute of Architecture of Armenia. I thank Armen Gurekian for providing information about this archive, which has been reproduced in A. Haykazun, 2015.

34 Ö. Taşdelen et al., 2006, p. 24, lists the English and French Baccarat chandeliers, Murano chandeliers and European porcelain from Sèvres and Meissen. This is not to say that these items were not procured from Europe (Ottoman documents do also show this was indeed the case), but these descriptions of European objects are not offered in addition to mentions of Armenian authorship. 

35 Le Monde illustré, 31 March 1877, no. 1042.

36 C. Göncü, 2006, p. 23.

37 R. Hill, 2007, p. 378.

38 La Jeune Turquie. Journal pour la défense des intérets de l’Empire ottoman, 9 July 1910, no. 15, p. 3.

39 Levant Herald, 25 Jan. 1873. Tuğlacı mentions that Kemhaciyan’s workshop used steam saws, P. Tuğlacı 1990, p. 318.

40 E. Bourquelot, 1886, pp. 294-295.

41 G.A. Siddons (attributed), 1830, in G. Adamson (ed.), 2010, p. 43.

42 The 1891 Census states that Sopon’s occupation was: “Artist, Portrait painting”.

43 C. Göncü, 2006, p. 27.

44 Topkapı Palace Archive (TPA), D3217.

45 P. Tuğlacı 1990, appendix, “Document 138/I”, p. 725.

46 Ibid., 1990, appendix, “Document 138/K”, p. 726.

47 Ibid., 1990, appendix, “Document 138/O”, p. 726.

48 Ibid., “Document 138/C”, p. 724.

49 Ibid., 1990, “Document 138/C”, p. 724.

50 Ibid., 1990, “Document 138/D”, p. 724.

51 Ibid., 1990, “Document 138/E”, p. 724.

52 Ottoman Archives (BBK) Evkaf Defteri 13761. A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 6. Edhem Eldem, who has worked on this factory, suggested this connection to me.

53 BBK, HHd. Fezhane ve Fabrikalara ait Defterleri, Defter no. 18909, 1272.R.01-1272.R.01/1856, goods from the Hereke Textile Factory purchased for Beşiktaş Palace. On the Armenian management of the Hereke factory see: Ö. Küçükerman, 1987, pp. 47-49.

54 Edward C. Clark gave an account of the “industrial revolution” of the empire as being in the hands of Armenians, specifically the “jobbery” of the Dadians, their monopoly being seized in 1849 and many of these early factories being “inherited by the Turkish Republic” (although he did not specify under what conditions). E.C. Clark, 1974, pp. 70-73.

55 Sopon Bezirdjian’s birth is listed by Teotig as 1839. The 1891 Census states Bezirdjian was around fifty and resident in Manchester. The Death Index shows he died in 1915 at 76.

56 Teotig, 1912, p. 255. R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2010 p. 11. Davidian suggests that Teotig corresponded with the artists when compiling their biographies. V. Davidian, 2014, p. 33.

57 Teotig, 1921, pp. 257-8.

58 Teotig, 1912, p. 255.

59 It is interesting that Teotig uses the French word here as well as placing only this word within (French style) quotation marks. This indicates that this was viewed to be a new field of work, and one essentially coming from French inheritance.

60 Victoria and Albert Museum, Blythe House Archives, Abstracts of Correspondence, [Registered Paper number] RP/1885/3751 [Date] 1885/06/18 [Correspondent] Hakoumian M. [Abstract] Recommends S. Bezirdjian as a competent artist for the decoration of room refd to in the genuine Oriental Style; RP/1911/1249, 1911/03/03 Bezirdjian, Sopon, Offers architectural designs for purchase. I thank James Sutton at the V&A for these references. Some of Sopon’s architectural designs for an “Etoile Casino”, mosque and mausoleum complex have recently been acquired by the V&A, showing how, ironically, long after his death, he achieved the institutional enshrinement Teotig wrote about.

61 This point is clarified if one looks to Bezirdjian’s own book, published in 1889, which states on the cover that it was produced under the patronage of “Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (Princess Helena of Great Britain and Ireland).” That the cover also mentions the names of Abdülhamid, Nasser-ed-din Shah and Abdülaziz, as well as being adorned with the coat of arms of Britain, the Shah and the monogram of the sultan, shows that royal support was somewhat of a preoccupation of Sopon’s.

62 Teotig, 1912, p. 255. Bezirdjian’s commissions also included the Persian pavilion in the 1900 Paris Exposition. Le Figaro, 6 Sept. 1902, no. 249.

63 Iskender (or Theodore) was influential in printing and graphic art. Ahmet Ziya, “Nos compatriotes en France”, La Jeune Turquie. Journal pour la défense des intérets de l’Empire ottoman, 9 July 1910, p. 3. The family took the name Birch, continuing to be referred to as Bezirdjian. Their nationality was retained for some time: as late as 1933 Henrietta (wife of Theodore), was naturalized, listed as being from Turkey, Armenian and resident in London.

64 This same outline provided by Teotig has been repeated in G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 1, pp. 244-245 and K. Pamukciyan, 1961, p. 2729.

65 Owen Jones published books on several of these styles, such as The Complete Chinese Ornament (1867).

66 O. Jones, 1842-1845, 1856.

67 Serkis and Agop Balyan had sent a team of artists to Spain and North Africa. It is not mentioned whether Bezirdjian was sent or not but these sketches provide convincing evidence. P. Tuğlacı, 1990, p. 318.

68 Thus this follows Smith’s notion of “ethnies” or ethno-cultural communities, whose ethnic belonging was not new (the symbols that they were being invoked were, in the main, not out of the blue, but were present in earlier oral traditions), although they became more prominent after the industrial revolution. A.D. Smith, 1998.

69 E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, 1983; B. Anderson, 1983. On the Armenian case, which under the Russian Empire and the Soviets did follow this trajectory of the modernists, see R.G. Suny, 2001.

70 A. Hacikiyan et al., 2005, p. 592; K. Tölölyan, 1999, pp. 79-102.

71 L. Nalbandian, 1963, p. 39.

72 R.G. Suny, 2001.

73 Jones encouraged calligraphy’s uses in a pattern book on illuminated letters. O. Jones, 1864.

74 A. Ersoy, 2000, pp. 193-194; K. Pamukciyan, 1990, pp. 34-41; O. Avédissian, 1959, pp. 399-400.

75 The function of these compositions is not clear. There are several with such Armenian inscriptions and depictions of Ararat. On one page, a cartouche says “time” (Ժամանակ) in inverted letters; another drawing seems to say “publication” (Հանդես). This may indicate that they were designs for well-known Armenian newspapers. However the compositions are similar in shape to Sopon’s designs for mirrors.

76 Following the excavations of Ani from 1892 and Zvartnots from 1905, and the publishing of works by Toros Toramanian and Josef Strzgowky, the Armenian Urform was redefined along medieval lines and medieval architectural references became prominent. C. Maranci, 2001.

77 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 3.

78 C. Gere, 1989, p. 47.

79 J. Cooper, 1987, p. 15.

80 On the contradictions of Jones’ approach to the Alhambra see: L. Eggleton, 2012, pp. 9-13.

81 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 5.

82 Ibid., 1889, p. 7.

83 Ibid., 1889, p. 7.

84 Illustrated London News, 14 Aug. 1854, features Oscanyan’s museum. It is interesting that these ideas to guard against false representation of the Ottomans happened around the same time as discussions in the 1850s to 1870s concerning The India Museum that had been housed in the East India Company’s property since 1798. The museum was to be bigger and a “useful” institution along the lines of a “properly designed mechanism” (p. 5). Decorative arts of India were planned to be displayed so that British manufacturers “could better understand their markets” (p. 23). J. Forbes Watson, 1874.

85 C. Oscanyan, 1857, p. 11.

86 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 4. Bezirdjian explicitly mentions Parvillée as working on the palaces of Abdülaziz.

87 Levant Herald, 10 Jan. 1867.

88 Levant Herald, 19 Feb. 1867.

89 La Turquie, 30 Sept. 1868, no. 510.

90 L. Parvillée, 1874.

91 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 3.

92 Ibid., p. 3.

93 Ibid., p. 4.

94 Bezirdjian also praised Leighton’s presidency of the Academy in stimulating the new generation. S. Bezirdjian, 1889, pp. 1, 7.

95 Le Monde illustré, 30 Oct. 1868, no. 655, pp. 277-278.

96 F. Yenişehirlioğlu, 2006, pp. 57-89.

97 A. Ersoy, 2003, pp. 187–207.

98 M. de Launay et al., 1873, p. 16.

99 A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 7.

100 R. Hill, 2007, p. 92.

101 BBK, HR.TO, D:438, G:78, 1861.11.30, reply to petition of Keresteci Kurdoğlu. This was a petition against Serkis’ father Karapet Balyan, in which Karapet refers to himself as “a simple intermediary” not personally responsible for payment.

102 BBK, HR.TO, D: 464, G:57, 1878.9.8.

103 BBK, HR.TO, D:464, G:57, 1878.9.8.

104 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 7.

105 Ibid., p. 8.

106 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 8.

107 Ibid., 1889, p. 8.

108 British National Archives, FO78/4334 (and printed on 2 Dec. 1890 in the Levant Herald); Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi BBK, Y.PRK.TKM 33/91, 1312/1894-5.

109 S. Bezirdjian, 1889, p. 8.

110 A. Wharton, 2015, Ch. 7.

111 M. Levinger and P.F. Lytle, 2001. On the part of “narratives of communal decline and redemption” in mobilisation.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1 “Oriental” ornament of Beylerbeyi Palace, 1865[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 484k
Légende Figure 2 Coloured sketches of Çırağan Palace by Serkis BalyanAGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,8M
Légende Figure 3 Sketch by Sopon Bezirdjian of Cupboard with Stepped-VaultImage courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Légende Figure 4 Drawings of capitals by Sopon BezirdjianImages courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Légende Figure 5 Photograph of Carved Wooden Door(Possibly from Islamic Spain or North Africa), Sopon BezirdjianImage courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Légende Figure 6 Drawing of Golden Horn Style Ceramics, Sopon BezirdjianImage courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Légende Figure 7 Drawing of Frame with Ararat by Sopon BezirdjianImage courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Légende Figure 8 Hayastan by Sopon BezirdjianImage courtesy of Mr and Mrs Clark, London[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende Figure 9 Sketch of Altarpiece (Possibly Etchmiadzin) by Sopon BezirdjianImage courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 276k
Légende Figure 10 Altarpiece in Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 596k
Légende Figure 11 “Persian Style” from L’Albert. Album des beaux-Arts contenant des dessins en style pur oriental pour la décoration et l’industrie, par Sopon Bézirdjian, artiste-dessinateur, Paris, 1900, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Légende Figure 12 “Arabian Style” from L’Albert. Album des beaux-Arts contenant des dessins en style pur oriental pour la décoration et l’industrie, par Sopon Bézirdjian, artiste-dessinateur, Paris, 1900, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Légende Figure 13 “Turkish Style” from L’Albert. Album des beaux-Arts contenant des dessins en style pur oriental pour la décoration et l’industrie, par Sopon Bézirdjian, artiste-dessinateur, Paris, 1900, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 336k
Légende Figure 14 Capitals in Beylerbeyi Palace, 1865[Photograph by Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/883/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 442k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan, « The Unknown Craftsman Made Real: Sopon Bezirdjian, Armenian-ness and Crafting the Late Ottoman Palaces », Études arméniennes contemporaines, 6 | 2015, 71-109.

Référence électronique

Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan, « The Unknown Craftsman Made Real: Sopon Bezirdjian, Armenian-ness and Crafting the Late Ottoman Palaces », Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 6 | 2015, mis en ligne le 10 mars 2016, consulté le 26 mai 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eac/883 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/eac.883

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Auteur

Alyson Wharton-Durgaryan

University of Lincoln, School of History and Heritage

en

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Droits d’auteur

Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB

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