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Imagining Ottoman Armenia: Realism and Allegory in Garabed Nichanian’s Provincial Wedding in Moush and Late Ottoman Art Criticism

Imaginer l’Arménie ottomane à travers l’art et la critique : réalisme et allégorie dans le Mariage de province à Mouch de Garabed Nichanian
Vazken Khatchig Davidian
p. 155-225

Résumés

Cet article prend les arts visuels ottomans et la critique d’art comme objets d’études pour analyser l’essor d’un courant réaliste dans le milieu intellectuel arménien de la Constantinople des années 1880. L’étude croisée de l’image et des textes permet de mettre au jour les questions majeures embrassées par cette génération réaliste des artistes arméniens de Constantinople (Պոլսահայ Իրապաշտ Սերունդ) : la précarité politique et socio-économique qui caractérise alors l’Arménie ottomane et le phénomène du bantkhdoutiun (պանդխտութիւն), ce mouvement de migration à grande échelle des Arméniens venus des provinces reculées de l’empire vers la capitale à la recherche d’un travail, qui traverse la fin du dix-neuvième siècle. Dans le même temps, les sources étudiées dans cet article reflètent la manière dont les artistes et les intellectuels s’emparent de ces grandes questions de leur époque sous un régime autocratique où la censure se fait de plus en plus pressante. L’auteur plaide ici pour une attention accrue au coup de pinceau du peintre, mieux à même de se soustraire à l’œil inquisiteur du censeur que la plume de l’intellectuel, et capable de faire passer des messages – au besoin sous une forme allégorique – sous l’apparence de thèmes ethnographiques. L’utilisation d’un vaste corpus de sources arméniennes ottomanes jusqu’à présent négligé vise ainsi à permettre une écriture plus nuancée et plus inclusive de l’histoire de l’art ottoman.

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Figure 1 Garabed Nichanian, Provincial Armenian Wedding in Moush, 1886/1890
Albumen print, 22 x 28.7 cm,
(approximate size of painting 150 x 200 cm, present location unknown)
Photograph courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 1 Note: The transliteration system in use is Western Armenian except when quoting Eastern Armenian na (...)
  • 2 For Pashalian, see M. Ishkhan, 1973, vol. 2, pp. 100-115. For collected works see L. Pashalian, 194 (...)
  • 3 Taparig (Թափառիկ, Wanderer): one of two pseudonyms used by Pashalian, (the other being Asbed) (Ասպե (...)
  • 4 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.
  • 5 The artist signed his name Nichanian, in French (English equivalent Nshanian). Variations: “Charles (...)
  • 6 AGBU Nubar Library, Familles – Groupes, Box no. 20.
  • 7 Tbilisi, Georgia.
  • 8 A Mshetsi is a native of Moush (Մուշ; Muş in present day Turkey). The suffix –tsi in both Western a (...)
  • 9 Tadron (Թատրոն, Theatre), Dec. 1899, 3rd Year, no. 2, Book 6 (Գիրք Զ); Phototype (Ֆոտոտիպ) engraver (...)
  • 10 Daron (Taron) is the ancient Armenian name for the plain, region and ancient principality centred a (...)
  • 11 Engraver: Simon Nahabedian: Keghouni, 19. Nichanian’s name as the author of the work is absent in b (...)
  • 12 F. Macler, 1917, p. 36.

1The idea behind this essay was hatched during an extended period of research in the archives of the AGBU Nubar Library in Paris, and in response to encounters with a text and a photograph during the course of a single week. The text, an uncharacteristically long piece of art criticism1 by Ottoman Armenian Realist vanguard Levon Pashalian (1868-1943)2, writing under the pseudonym Taparig (Թափառիկ)3, published in the popular and influential Constantinople Armenian daily Arevelk on 28 July under the title A Provincial Wedding (Գաւառական Հարսնիք Մը)4, reviewed a single painting by the Constantinople artist Garabed Nichanian (1861-1950)5. This was followed a few days later by the discovery of an albumen photographic print of an unnamed painting, with the words “Celebration des noces” scribbled on the back in pencil, and added later in ink, in Armenian, «հայկական հարսանիք» (“Armenian wedding”) [see figure 1].6 The detailed rendering and description provided in Taparig’s article was instrumental in helping instantly identify the painting in the photograph beyond doubt. This was subsequently confirmed by three black and white reproductions of the painting published during the artist’s lifetime: the first, a mirror image of the painting that appeared in the Tiflis7 Russian Armenian journal Tadron, with the caption Wedding of Mshetsis8 (Մշեցոց Հարսանիք) in 18999 [see figure 10]; the second, in the art and culture journal Keghouni, published in Venice, titled Wedding in Daron10 (Հարսանիք Տարօնի Մէջ) in 190111; and some time later reproduced in the French Orientalist Frederic Macler’s (1869-1938) La France et l’Arménie: à travers l’art et l’histoire in 1917, captioned Mariage arménien à Mouch.12

2Since its publication by Macler, the sole reference to the painting has been art historian Shahen Khachatryan’s following passing remarks:

  • 13 Sh. Khachatryan, 1991, p. 27.

The thematic canvas Armenian Wedding in Moush is one of Nichanian’s noteworthy works, which has been reprinted in F[rederic] Macler’s 1917 book France and Armenia Through Art and History. This picture, that adheres to classical fine art principles and has a simple structure, represents an Armenian hearth, with participants of wedding celebrations. On the canvas ancient folk traditions have received a live embodiment. Alongside the depicted persons’ natural movements, the viewer’s attention is captured by their national costume and daily (կենցաղի) objects. The author lives their beauty and has strived to accentuate them. […] The expression (բացահայտում) of national characteristics and refined, pure human emotions are the enticing values of Nichanian’s canvasses.13

  • 14 For the sake of brevity I shall hereafter refer to the work as Nichanian’s Wedding.
  • 15 J.M. MacKenzie, 1995, pp. 43-70; E. Burke III and D. Prochaska, 2008, pp. 1-71.

3This sketchy evaluation, based on Macler’s reproduction of Nichanian’s Wedding14, while offering the odd valid observation, only scratches the surface. The purpose of this essay, itself the product of a conspiracy between accident, curiosity, serendipity and method, is to counter such simplistic accounts, where everything is projected through a distorted, “national”, lens, by delving deep. Careful and nuanced readings of the painting also aim to forestall the indiscriminate, hasty and superficial blanket application of overarching labels such as “Orientalist”, “Realist” or “provincial” when considering work such as Nichanian’s Wedding. These problematic terms often serve to obscure the real questions, which can be broached only through in-depth interrogation. While, for example, Nichanian’s Wedding’s “Eastern” setting, elaborate ethnographic detail and native colour might invite comparisons to Western “Orientalist” painting the artist’s complex identities and environment make such a designation anything but straightforward.15 A “Realist” label, meanwhile, encouraged by Nichanian’s proximity to Pashalian and Arevelk, is similarly complicated considering the artist’s representation not of his familiar urban cosmopolitan Pera, but instead of an imagined provincial scene, with the very word “provincial” pointing to distance and a vantage point of a perceived centre looking outwards, towards a peripheral location.

  • 16 See E. Zurcher, 1998, pp. 80-94; G. Libaridian, 2004, pp. 51-85; T. Akcam, 2006, pp. 35-46; R. Pano (...)
  • 17 Also known as the Constantinople or Western Armenian Realist Generation (Պոլսահայ Իրապաշտ Սերունդ); (...)
  • 18 From the Greek “πανδοχος”: H. Adjarian, 1979, vol. 4, p. 20.
  • 19 Bantkhdoutioun encapsulates the phenomenon of emigration and also being in the state of a migrant, (...)
  • 20 P. Brooks, 2005, p. 16. For French Realism, see G. Weisberg, 1982, pp. 1-18.

4This essay proposes Nichanian’s Wedding as a representation of Ottoman Armenia as imagined from the vantage point of a Constantinople intellectual produced at a critical moment in Ottoman history, the late 1880s, when the various facets of the Ottoman State’s interrelationship with its Armenian subjects took on an especially perilous turn.16 The situating of the artist at the heart of the late nineteenth century Ottoman Armenian Realist17 milieu alongside two of its luminaries, Pashalian and the editor, writer and activist Arpiar Arpiarian (1852-1908), allows us to hold the Wedding as mirror to the manifestation of Realism among this group of intellectuals, in relation to two central, deeply intertwined, themes of preoccupation: the socio-economic and political situation in Ottoman Armenia, and the large-scale migration of impoverished peasants, bantoukhds (պանդուխտներ)18 to the big city, especially Constantinople in search of work, known as the phenomenon of bantkhdoutioun (պանդխտութիւն)19. Thus accepted truths, about a movement erroneously viewed solely as literary, and accounts, that ignore the fundamentally visual roots of Realism, are challenged in this essay. As Peter Brooks has explained, realism, as a term is resolutely attached to the visual, initially appearing as a critical and polemical term in the early 1850s, to characterize the French artist Gustave Courbet’s (1819-1877) painting and only then, by extension, taken to describe a literary style.20 This discussion, therefore, breaks with dominant canonical texts on Ottoman Armenian Realism by delving into the hitherto untested waters of visual art production and art criticism.

  • 21 For “social consciousness” see R. Bezucha, 1982, pp. 1-13. For “social history of art” see T.J. Cla (...)
  • 22 For microhistory and uses of clues and fragments, see C. Ginzburg, 2013, pp. 87-113; for biography (...)
  • 23 For “eco-systems of images” see S. Manghani, 2012, pp. 159-187.
  • 24 For “triangulation”, a method that adopts different positions and different methodologies to test t (...)
  • 25 For “thick description” see C. Geertz, 1973, pp. 3-30.

5For the Constantinople Realists of the 1880s and 1890s, bantkhdoutioun represented the physical embodiment of Ottoman Armenia on the streets of the imperial capital. The introduction of a second art critical text, published in 1882, read closely alongside Pashalian’s review, is aimed at elucidating the above interrelationship during a decade of shifting and complex developments in the ideological positions of the Abdülhamid II regime and of various Ottoman Armenian identities, while underscoring the need for a nuanced and historically specific framework of analysis. The determinacy of Nichanian’s Wedding, of uncovering the artist’s intentions and social consciousness21 is explored via the seeking out of biographical and other clues22 and navigation through the complex landscape of the artist’s multifaceted identities. These coalesce into, and are brought to bear upon, our reading of Nichanian’s Wedding as barometer of its specific historical moment. Finally the essay hopes to grapple with ever-shifting environments and ecosystems23 of the image’s habitation, the various material forms that it has occupied as image, the multiplicity of vantage points that have influenced the work’s varied captioning and interpretation over time and space (e.g. Constantinople [1890], Chicago [1892], Tiflis [1899], Venice [1901], Paris [1917]), and its reception by audiences, both intended and unintended, and conduits of interpretation encompassing art critics, government censors, collectors and a wider audience within and outside the Ottoman Empire.24 Determining meanings, where every description is in effect ineluctably interpretive, are intrinsically connected to these shifting contexts.25

  • 26 C. Schleif, 2008, p. 6. Schleif refers to this approach as “particular history”, an approach heavil (...)
  • 27 Pashalian is unclear on whether the work was on public display or privileged access had been grante (...)
  • 28 At present the location of the painting is unknown. I believe it is held in a private collection in (...)
  • 29 V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 12, 44-47.

6This essay scrutinizes an image (and its mediations and translations) hitherto deemed insignificant by historiography, in the hope of reintroducing traces and reflections of men and women who are absent from and ignored by the grand narratives of art history.26 In my mind, Nichanian’s Wedding constitutes a landmark in nineteenth century Ottoman art, if only in terms of sheer ambition, scope, content and scale. This is a monumental painting, unusually produced outside usual channels of patronage of Palace or other elites, the fruit of a native professional artist’s own initiative and ideas, and, as far as known, never exhibited in public.27 At the moment of Pashalian’s viewing, it was already an actor in complex intellectual, ideological and commercial networks of exchange. Its almost total exclusion from art historiography, of never having been awarded anything resembling serious consideration since Pashalian’s 1890 review (owing admittedly in part to the absence of the original painting28) is particularly glaring, and highlights the deeply problematic nature of nationalist Armenian and Turkish art historiographies, and the failure thus far of Western-centric art histories in their engagement with non-Western, in this instance Ottoman, art production in any meaningful manner.29

  • 30 There is a vast literature on fin-de-siècle Vienna. See C.E. Schorske, 1981; S. Beller, 2001.
  • 31 See W.M.K. Shaw, 2011, pp. 11-39; M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 1-19, 129-136. Yet the narratives of nation (...)
  • 32 C. Schleif, 2008, pp. 6-18; C. Geertz, 1977, pp. 480-492.
  • 33 This vast and complex topic, not in the least due to the interchangeable use of “Armenia” and “Kurd (...)
  • 34 A new and growing body of literature is uncomfortable with referring to the Ottoman East as “Easter (...)

7In closing, to represent the nineteenth century cultural and art history of the Ottoman imperial capital without its native Armenian agents – architects, artists, photographers, writers, patrons, commercial networks, etc. – is akin to writing the history of fin-de-siècle Vienna without its Jewish actors.30 Yet this is the prevalent approach of still dominant reductive nation-centric art histories, whose tenets are only recently being eroded and dismantled.31 The material presented here, provides a counterpoint to these artificial histories, whether Turkish, Armenian, or other, through firstly, extensive and privileged use of a wealth of Ottoman Armenian and other Armenian language sources, a hitherto untapped resource by art historiography; secondly, through the appropriation of an emic approach from an anthropological toolkit32, in an attempt to get closer to that which is being studied. Hence the usage of historical terms that the actors themselves would have used when, for example, discussing geographical regions, such as “Ottoman Armenia” and “Ottoman Kurdistan”33 in preference to seemingly “neutral” later ahistorical impositions such as “Eastern Anatolia”34, and descriptions, underscored by the faithful use and rendering of materials in the original language (in this case Western Armenian) that allow subjects to speak with their own voices. By the introduction of such voices, this essay hopes to contribute to the effort for more representative and inclusive Ottoman art histories.

(Re)Introducing the Artist: Garabed Nichanian in Constantinople

8Our knowledge of Nichanian, a once important but now forgotten artist, is at best fragmentary. Yet, his renown in 1890 Constantinople becomes instantly apparent in the opening paragraph of Pashalian’s A Provincial Wedding:

  • 35 Ottoman honorific.
  • 36 Costikian Frères, Commissionaires, were based at “Bazar Oriental Han, 29, S”. R. Cervati, 1891, p.  (...)
  • 37 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

In recent days we had the opportunity to view a painting that presents an Armenian provincial wedding, the work of the well-known painter Garabed Efendi35 Nichanian, [which is on display] in one of the rooms at the Gosdigian (Կոստիկեան) [B]rothers in the Oriental Bazaar in Bolis36. I saw that painting with admiration [wonderment], with an enjoyment equally of the eye and the heart, and I consider it my duty to render others partakers in the boundless satisfaction and a kind of national [ազգային] pride that Nichanian Efendi’s beautiful talent inspires in us.37

  • 38 S. Sourenian, 1882, Masis, no. 3318, 22 Oct. 1882.
  • 39 Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.
  • 40 Father H.M., Fine Arts (Գեղարուեստք), Masis, no. 3341, 18 Nov. 1882 (signed 15 Nov.).

9Pashalian’s text was published eight years after Nichanian’s return to Constantinople following a five-year absence in Naples. The poet Sdepan Sourenian marked the artist’s return from his studies in the remarkably protracted and verbose poem, consisting of eight long stanzas counting two hundred and thirty verses, Painting (Նկարչութիւն), “Ode to the Honourable Garabed Efendi Nichanian” (Նուէր Առ Մեծ. Կարապետ Էֆ. Նշանեան) published in three parts in Masis on 19, 21 and 22 October 1882.38 Meanwhile, writing in 1886, Arpiarian described Nichanian’s return to the imperial capital as “the fine arts having [conscripted] another new soldier (գեղարուեստք նոր զինուոր մ՝եւս ունին)”.39 A letter to the editor of Masis published under the title Fine Arts (Գեղարուեստք) on 18 November 1882 heaps great praise on Nichanian on the occasion of the exhibition of a yet unfinished painting of Mevlevi Dervishes in the courtyard of a mosque. The author, who had included a further note by “a friend” who “was articulate and had great knowledge of the fine arts”, requests that these words of praise be communicated to the Armenian youth of the city so that they too would become involved in the fine arts, emulating their contemporary Nichanian.40

Figure 2 Garabed Nichanian, Self Portrait, 1894
Oil on canvas, 28.5 x 18.2 cm
Image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 41 M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 137-138.

10A self-portrait, signed and marked Constantinople 1894 [see figure 2], four years after Pashalian’s review, provides a rare and intimate glimpse of how an Ottoman Armenian artist viewed and thought of himself. The art historian Mary Roberts writes of self-portraiture in the late nineteenth century Ottoman space as providing “the most intimate insights into how they perceived themselves and their practice as modern artists in a period and a location where the cultural category was in formation.”41 Nichanian’s direct gaze and confident smile, visible through a luxurious moustache is the self-representation of an optimistic man, understandably pleased with the critical and commercial success he has enjoyed since his return from his studies in Naples. The informality of the painting is reflected in his casual European attire: the artist’s collar is loosely undone, his shirt is unbuttoned, while his fashionable stripy civilian cloth cap with the small visor does not match his jacket. The large moustache and casual cap are signifiers of “East” and “West” respectively, synthesized harmoniously on the picture plane by Nichanian’s own brush. In this surviving rare self-portrait the artist has sought to represent himself as a late nineteenth century Westernised urban modern Ottoman man, with the gentle whiff of the bohemian. The background has been deliberately left undetermined, as to not distract from the artist’s own features, allowing room for the man and artist Nichanian to come alive on canvas.

  • 42 I have been unable to find a single mention of his name in its publications between 1907-1929.
  • 43 The second is Le repos de l’odalisque, a depiction of a woman in an oriental setting, which is also (...)
  • 44 H. Alyanak, 1924, pp. 284-293. See G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 1, p. 140.
  • 45 O. Avedissian, 1959, p. 284.
  • 46 H. Turabian, 1962, p. 62. Verbatim reproduction of Macler, 1917.
  • 47 Fr A. Bohdjalian, 1989, p. 192.
  • 48 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 667-671.
  • 49 M. Saris 2005, p. 74.
  • 50 D. Dznouni, 1977, p. 368.
  • 51 Sh. Khachatryan, 1991, p. 27.
  • 52 A. Aghasyan, 2009, p. 246, fn. 65. Aghasyan has based much of his extensive footnote on the artist (...)
  • 53 Y. Martikyan, 1971, 1975, vol 3, 4.
  • 54 See A. Shirvanzadé, Mourdj, no. 10, pp. 1439-1455; Y. Lalayan, Ardzagank, no. 123, 1897, p. 4; (for (...)
  • 55 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 668-671.
  • 56 I was allowed access to Nichanian’s paintings at the National Gallery of Armenia in July 2014.
  • 57 The whereabouts of roughly half is unknown.

11Two or so decades after this portrait was executed the artist had been all but forgotten. The veritable treasure trove of everything late Ottoman Armenian, Teotig’s Everyone’s Almanac (Ամէնուն Տարեցոյցը), is inexplicably silent on Nichanian.42 The primary source on Nichanian remains Macler’s brief biographical sketch, published in his 1917 La France et l’Arménie, alongside the artist’s photograph and two undated paintings, one of which was the Wedding.43 Furthermore, beyond a sentence in Macler, nothing is known about Nichanian’s move to Paris in 1906. French Armenian sources, such as the artist and art critic Hrand Alyanak (1880-1938), make no reference to the artist who appears not to have participated in any French Armenian salons or artistic groups.44 In the art historiography of the Diaspora, all biographical notes on the artist in the works of Onnig Avedissian45, Hagop Turabian46, Father Arisdages Bohdjalian47, Garo Kürkman48 and Mayda Saris49 are entirely based on, or reproduce, Macler’s. The same occurs in Soviet (1921-1991) and Armenian Republican (1991 to present) art historiography: these include minor notes by art historians Daniel Dznouni50, Shahen Khachatryan51 and Ararat Aghasyan52. Yeghishe Martikyan makes no mention of Nichanian in either volume III or IV of his History of Armenian Fine Art.53 None of the above writers and art historians have tapped Ottoman Armenian sources or display any familiarity with the material on Nichanian published in Masis in 1882 and Arevelk in 1886 and 1890 while discussions of the artist’s work in the Russian Armenian press in 1897, most notably by the celebrated Social Realist novelist, playwright and journalist Alexander Shirvanzadé (1858-1935), published in the literary monthly Mourdj (Մուրճ, Hammer), and by Yervant Lalayan, editor and publisher of the ethnographic journal Azgagrakan Handes (Ազգագրական Հանդէս, Ethnographic Review), in the daily Ardzagank, are noted but barely engaged with.54 Of all the above, Kürkman’s contribution is the more valuable as his two-volume compendium of Ottoman Armenian artists, while introducing minimal new information, provides a source for the artist’s paintings by reproducing a total of four paintings in colour.55 Meanwhile, the foremost, albeit small, repository for Nichanian’s paintings remain the storerooms of the National Gallery of Armenia, which has published all seven Nichanian paintings currently listed in its collections on its website.56 The vast majority of Nichanian’s surviving works – like those of most nineteenth and early twentieth century Ottoman Armenian artists – are scattered around private collections around the world, often forgotten and inaccessible to art historians, whilst occasionally surfacing at various auctions. This research paper has unearthed fewer than twenty works in total,57 and that by an artist noted for his prolific production.

  • 58 Macler erroneously notes Guillemet’s first name as “Émile”. F. Macler, 1917, p. 36. Also S. Sinanla (...)
  • 59 See S. Sinanlar Uslu, 2010, pp. 14, 72.
  • 60 S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 2008, p. 69. Nichanian’s name is misspelt as “Nisanciyan”.
  • 61 Arpiarian’s reference suggests that Nichanian studied at the Nubar-Shahnazarian School in Khaskioug (...)
  • 62 Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.
  • 63 Hostility towards artistic careers appears to cut across all Ottoman communities; for example, fami (...)
  • 64 S. Sourenian,1882, Masis, no. 3318, 22 Oct. 1882.

12A native of Constantinople, Nichanian received his artistic training at Pierre-Desiré Guillemet’s58 (1827-1878) Académie de dessin et de peinture in Constantinople. Guillemet had opened his art school, apparently the first such establishment in the Ottoman Empire, with the encouragement of Sultan Abdülaziz (r: 1861-1876).59 As one of Guillemet’s first students, Nichanian must have taken part in the large painting exhibition organized by Şeker Ahmed Paşa at the Municipal Theatre in Petit-Champs in 1877.60 Arpiarian reports that Nichanian had been a student at the Shahnazarian,61 noting that “even in his childhood his mind was overtaken by the passion of paintings”.62 It is tempting to speculate that Nichanian must have come from a relatively enlightened and comfortable socio-economic background in the light of his having experienced relatively little familial hostility to the pursuit of an artistic career.63 The only hint of such opposition or difficulty comes from a single verse in Part III of Sourenian’s Painting, published on 22 October: “what care for you [effort that you had to exert] that your first steps, were not in the least encouraged” («Ինչ փոյթ քեզի թէ քո քայլերն առաջին, քաջալերուած չեն բնաւին»).64

  • 65 Hraztan 1886, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.
  • 66 F. Macler, 1917, pp. 36-37. Morelli was the influential director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Nap (...)

13Arpiarian reports that after studying “with the famous Guimet [sic]”65, Nichanian had gone to Italy, and following an initial brief stay in Rome in 1877, had moved to Naples where he spent five years, studying at the Royal Academy of Art under Filippo Palizzi (1818-1899) and especially Domenico Morrelli (1823-1901).66 Arpiarian had this to say of Nichanian’s artistic formation in Naples and intellectual leanings:

  • 67 Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

What can a passionate (խանդ ունեցող) man not accomplish if every day he is alongside (առընթեր է) a teacher such as Domenico Morelli, whom a French artist has called “the second [C]reator of nature”. On the one hand, the young Armenian drew and studied anatomy (անդամազննութիւն) and on the other, sciences, fed his mind (պարարէր իւր միտքը) and heart with the study of the masterpieces of the new and old schools. In Rome and in Napoli the youth cohabits (կենակցի) with the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Rafael, Tiziano. He immerses [himself] into Gerome’s, Meissonier’s and Cabanel’s masterpieces. Every thing inspires him, the memorials (յիշատակարանները), the sky, nature, Italian beauty. But his religion – the only adherence with which it is possible to be something in this world – is the need to stay away from being a copyist, but always to study the person and nature and create. To be a creator and not a copier.67

  • 68 W.A. Rollins, 1895, p. 7. Reform of academic painting was not solely an Italian pre-occupation. See (...)
  • 69 W.A. Rollins,1895, p. 35.

14Here, Arpiarian has rendered Nichanian’s academic training and artistic world view wide open. All four Armenian art critics – Arpiarian, Pashalian, Shirvanzadé and Lalayan – known to have reviewed Nichanian’s work in the 1880s and 1890s are in agreement that his painting lay on solid academic foundations and professional training. Unsurprisingly, Morelli is singled out as having had the most impact on Nichanian’s artistic development. A key figure in Neapolitan, and Italian, art in the nineteenth century, and central in the reform movement that strived to reform painting from the staid and rigid academicism of the Academies into the modern age, Morelli had also been one of the most influential teachers in Italy. A contemporary biographer notes that “by 1875 the flocking of young men to him for instruction surpassed anything which had been seen in Italy since the days of Canova”,68 later continuing, “it is true that almost all the promising young men coming up between 1865 and 1876 now take pains to set themselves down as ‘pupils of Morelli’”.69 Furthermore, consideration of Nichanian’s especially important paintings, such as the Wedding, strongly betray a close thematic and stylistic affinity to the work of his teacher.

Figure 3 Announcements of various moves of Garabed Nichanian’s atelier
Masis, 23 Nov. 1882, no. 3345/6 (above), and Arevelk, 17 June, no. 2519 (below)

  • 70 Masis, no. 3345/6, 23 Nov. 1882. Sinanlar Uslu lists Nichanian at a single address for the entire p (...)
  • 71 R.C. Cervati, 1891, p. 559.
  • 72 Arevelk, no. 2519, 17 June 1892.
  • 73 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, p. 667.
  • 74 For the full length portrait of socialite Makrouhi Noradoungian see Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 N (...)
  • 75 F. Macler, 1917, pp. 36-37. Macler’s text can only be referring to “son altesse” Ottoman statesman (...)
  • 76 See Nichanian’s 1885 copy of the 1789 portrait of Boghos Andonian, Mekhitarist Collection, San Lazz (...)
  • 77 Most likely Mgrdich Djivanian (1848-1906).
  • 78 See V. Rowe, 2009, pp. 37, 51.
  • 79 Dussap notes the new calendar date of 30 Jan. 1882 as the closing date for the exhibition.
  • 80 Sharourian’s dating of what he calls the “first Armenian exhibition in Constantinople” as Feb. 1882 (...)
  • 81 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 677-689.
  • 82 Ibid., 2004, vol. 2, pp. 778-784.
  • 83 Ibid., 2004, vol. 2. pp. 762-767.
  • 84 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 360-361.
  • 85 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 362-363.
  • 86 See S. Dussap, Masis, no. 3100, 27 Jan. 1882. See A.S. Sharourian, 1963, p. 171. Sinanlar Uslu’s li (...)
  • 87 AZKASER, Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882.

15Upon his return to Constantinople, Nichanian immediately established his atelier in or around fashionable Pera in close proximity to his Ottoman and European clients. An advertisement in Masis on 23 November announces [see figure 3] his move to 31 Tepebaşı, Pera.70 The Annuaire oriental for 1891 lists him as “Nichanian (C.), portraitiste, R. Pancaldi, 157, P”.71 On 17 June Nichanian advertises yet another move of his atelier from Pangaltı to No. 62 Grand Rue de Pera, above the cigar shop owned by M. Angelides next to Concordia [see figure 3] and informs his clients he could be found at his atelier daily from midday till eleven.72 The Annuaire oriental in 1893 lists Nichanian once again at his Pangaltı address.73 Portraiture, especially high society74, and Eastern genre scenes appear to have been the artist’s bread and butter. While the establishment of the Imperial Fine Art School (Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi) in Constantinople in 1883 came soon after Nichanian’s return to the imperial capital in 1882, whether Nichanian was ever considered for a teaching position there, or in the school system of the capital is not known. Macler notes however that Nichanian had become art teacher to “S. A. Said Pasha”.75 Nichanian is also known to have copied earlier paintings for patrons.76 He is listed (by surname only, alongside Djivanian77) in a letter published in Masis on 27 January under the heading Painting Exhibition (Նկարահանդէս) as one of the participating artists in the major exhibition in Pera organised by the influential feminist novelist Srpouhi Dussap (1841-1901) in aid of the Philomathic Ladies’ Association (Դպրոցասէր Տիկնանց Միութիւն)78 inaugurated at the end of December 1881, and closed on 18 January79 at the home of Monsieur Grombach.80 The list of participating artists comprises of many of the luminaries of the Constantinople art scene including Ivan (Hovhannes) Aivazovsky (1817-1900), Luigi Acquarone (1800-1896), Yervant Voskan (Osgan, 1855-1914)81, Boghos Shashian (Chachian, d: 1900)82, Bedros Srabian (1833-1898)83, Karnig Ekserdjian (b: 1858)84 and Telemach Ekserdjian (1840-1894)85, and others.86 The date of the exhibition is at odds with Arpiarian’s given date of 1882 noted for Nichanian’s return from Naples, suggesting, perhaps, that Nichanian may have sent work from Naples ahead of his return. On 28 May Masis also notes that Nichanian’s painting The Turkish Musician (Թուրք Երաժիշտն) had been greatly praised by the city’s European press, despite having been one of ten works withdrawn from the prestigious ABC Club’s 1882 Exhibition in Pera as originally intended.87

  • 88 Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.
  • 89 A. Andonian, Key to Pseudonyms, 1891. See fn. 4.

16It is evident that Nichanian was by 1890 a well established, respected and much sought out artist. That he had began work on the Wedding at the height of his fame is attested by the report On the Occasion of a Painting (Պատկերի մը առթիւ), published in the column Daily Life (Օրուան Կեանք) in Arevelk on 29 November88. During a conversation, the artist confides in Arpiarian, writing under the pseudonym Hraztan89, as having embarked upon a canvas representing an Armenian wedding. Arpiarian notes:

  • 90 Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

[W]e [Nichanian and I] rendezvous for the day when he will exhibit in public a wedding with Armenian types, Armenian customs[,] towards the realization of which he contemplates, thinks, toils and dreams.90

17The above text provides a key to Nichanian’s initial intentions, thoughts and conceptualisation for the Wedding. As importantly it confirms Nichanian’s proximity to the vanguards of Ottoman Armenian Realism, evoking a sense of intellectual affinity between them. After all, his return to Constantinople had coincided with the Realist turn of Constantinople Armenian literary, social and intellectual thought, the historical moment when Realism established its dominance over the city’s Armenian cultural milieu for the next decade.

Reading Levon Pashalian’s A Provincial Wedding

  • 91 Ibid.
  • 92 For interactions of visual and textual representations see W.J.T. Mitchell, 1994.

18Arpiarian’s 1886 article provides an initial, yet revealing, snapshot of Nichanian’s original intentions, his desire to represent the ethnographic wealth of Armenian traditions and customs on canvas.91 Pashalian’s review of the Wedding meanwhile, a fascinating and rare contemporary record of an urban Realist intellectual’s response devoted entirely to a single painting, written three and a half years after Arpiarian’s note, offers a wealth of descriptive observation and aesthetic interpretation of the finished work.92 Having viewed the painting in the artist’s presence makes Pashalian privy to, and a conduit of, at least some of Nichanian’s thoughts and intentions.

  • 93 For mechanical reproduction, see W. Benjamin, 1999; J. Berger, 1972, p. 20; for loss of “aura” due (...)

19Pashalian’s account provides an especially fortunate source for the art historian, particularly so in that he is presenting an experience markedly different to ours. This is primarily due to his access to and engagement with an original and unique object, an oil on canvas painting, in contrast to the mediated image at our disposal, a mechanically reproduced photographic print, one of a number [see figure 1].93 The black and white photograph deprives its handler from the possibility of the type of intimacy with Nichanian’s individual marks and brushstrokes, the physical markings of his intentions, of directly facing the work in its intended scale or appreciating the full spectrum of the artist’s application and use of colour, all available to Pashalian. For the immediacy of handling a photograph provides a fundamentally different sensation to the experience of viewing and engaging with a painting. Our temporal distance to 1890s Constantinople further complicates our relationship with the image and its interpretation, thus making our access to a contemporary view the more valuable.

  • 94 A second photographic print is held at the Archive of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, Venice. The Abbot s (...)
  • 95 The printing of images as postcards for sale was common practice: paintings by Arshag Fetvadjian (1 (...)

20What we have available to us, therefore, is a print in landscape format, with its lower left hand corner torn, the work of a photographer whose name remains unrecorded, one of a handful albumen prints in existence capturing the image of a painting representing the arrival of a wedding party from church.94 Produced for the artist as documentary and archival record of the painting before its sale, it could have also served as visual aid for prospective clients or as template for publication.95 It is however its documentary function that establishes our connection between the object at the heart of our interest, the painting, of which the existence it confirms and the image of which it has preserved. Abrogating his traditional responsibilities of framing, staging and composition, the photographer has allowed Nichanian’s painting to impose its own physical boundaries in determining the limits of the photograph. While still its author, the photographer has merely captured and reproduced an image created by someone else. Yet, in the absence of the painting from public view, it is ultimately his photograph that has ensured the survival of the image albeit in mediated form and with the imposition of its own material limitations. Hence, Pashalian’s descriptive text becomes instrumental in helping overcome some of these handicaps that would have necessarily inhibited our visual analysis, and complements our experience of the image by introducing its own layers of insight, gained from an engagement with the original painting.

  • 96 The runner, probably a pile rug, has a large central medallion, common among Anatolian rugs. Nichan (...)
  • 97 See A. Badrig, 1983.

21The photograph depicts a painting of a crowd, in the process of pouring into a large, rustic and mostly sparse room with high ceilings. Through a central doorway, the unmistakable conical dome of an Armenian church in the distance, from where the celebrants are arriving, can be discerned. On either side of the door, the triangular timber pediments above two blind windows evoke classical architectural forms. A large runner96 and assorted woven grass mats (խսիր) cover the floor space. Earthenware and other everyday implements displayed around the space exude an atmosphere of theatricality. The impression of a stage set is strengthened by Nichanian’s arrangement of the seventeen individuals, attired in Mshetsi native garb.97 Let’s allow Pashalian’s voice to guide us through the painting:

  • 98 Pashalian appears to have miscounted. Unless there is another figure, visible in the actual paintin (...)
  • 99 Translated from the Turkish nağara çekmek. I am grateful to Ani Baladian for the explanation.
  • 100 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

This is a monumental painting, [of] two metres width and one and a half metres height, [presenting a scene from] a provincial wedding where the priest, bride and groom, the best man, the village headman, relatives and friends, in total [a party of] eighteen souls98, are returning from church. On the first plane of the painting appears the conductor of the wedding, then the groom wearing a chasuble and bible in hand. Behind him the godfather [best man], holding a spear with an apple impaled at its point, and together the brother, the bride and the two sisters of the bride, the bride’s face covered with an Armenian veil, while one sister’s face is uncovered, as she is of more advanced years. The peasant priest in a white beard advances, worry beads in hand and behind him [stand] two strong young lads playing the drum, and two other [men] who are dancing, one crying out an exclamation of joy [նաղարա քաշել].99 The bride’s father is also present, as is a neighbour with her baby in her arms. The picture presents a spacious hall, with straw mats covering the floor. Two strings of onions are hanging from the ceiling, [there is] a jug and two cups on a shelf. In the distance the dome of the church is visible surrounded by a blue expanse [of sky], while in the distance appears the city with its castle.100

  • 101 Veiling practices were tied in with the traditional practice referred to as mounch (մունջ), which l (...)
  • 102 This is also of provenance from the Moush and Bitlis regions. See A. Badrig, 1983.

22Pashalian’s detailed rendering of the work, while pointing to what is readily visible in the photograph, also reveals much that isn’t, such as the presence of the city and a castle or the blue of the sky. Meanwhile, much can also be gleaned from the photograph that has not been noted by Pashalian, such as the partial veiling of the young women referred to in his text as the bride’s sisters [see figure 4], that would suggest recent marriages.101 Other details, meticulously painted into the image by Nichanian, such as the groom’s ceremonial dagger and the sacred book with its prominent, probably silver, cross held by him, or the strikingly different dress of the best man with his curved sword102, [see figure 5], are clearly visible in the photograph and provide much ethnographic detail, the obvious fruit of much research by the artist.

Figure 4 Garabed Nichanian, Bride’s entourage
in Armenian Wedding in Moush (detail)
AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

Figure 5 Garabed Nichanian, Groom and best man
in Armenian Wedding in Moush (detail)
AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 103 J. Etmekjian, 1964, p. 215.
  • 104 Title held by the Head of the Armenian Orthodox Church.
  • 105 For brilliant analyses of Khrimian and Ottoman Armenia see: Dz. Derderian 2014, pp. 145-169; and R. (...)
  • 106 The sobriquet Hayrig, meaning “Little Father”, predated Khrimian’s clerical appointment, a remnant (...)

23For the Ottoman Armenian Realist intellectual from the vantage point of 1890 Constantinople, Ottoman Armenia and bantkhdoutioun represented the two faces of the same proverbial coin: economic and structural improvement in Ottoman Armenia would stem the flow of migration. For these liberal and social reformist intellectual elites Ottoman Armenia was a distant land that most had never seen, yet imagined vividly due to an abundant body of literature that from the middle of the nineteenth century had shifted its gaze towards it.103 Just as the generation before them, that included the later Patriarch of Constantinople and Catholicos104 Mgrdich Khrimian (1820-1907)105, affectionately known as Hayrig106, and his disciple, the Bishop Karekin Srvantsdiants (1840-1892), both natives of Van, these liberal reformist intellectuals saw education as a panacea for all ills, while their newspapers – Yergrakound, Arevelk, Masis, Hayrenik – repeatedly espoused the economic development of Ottoman Armenia, especially of its agricultural sector, as a means of stemming emigration, and called for the establishment of infrastructure, the rule of law, security of life and property, and closer ties to the rest of the Empire.

  • 107 Bp. K. Srvantsdiants, 1978, p. 126.
  • 108 See the following issues of Arevelk: 31 Aug., 5 and 25 Sept., 4 and 24 Nov., 8 Dec. 1887, (nos. 109 (...)
  • 109 Fr. Gh. Indjidjian, 1806, vol. 2, pp. 12-51; Fr. A. Devgants, 1985, pp. 43-47; Fr. Y. Devgants, 199 (...)
  • 110 R.G. Suny, 1993, p. 98.

24The systematic collection and prolific publication of diverse ethnographic, antiquarian, historical, linguistic and other material including songs, dances, oral histories and customs from across Ottoman Armenia and other Armenian inhabited regions was viewed by Srvantsdiants in 1876 as representing as natural a part of “Armenia” as the land’s flora and fauna.107 Articles such as H.M. Doudoukhian’s series Life in Armenia (Հայաստանի Կեանք) published in Arevelk in at least twelve independent parts between August 1887 and April 1888, provides just one example of the diverse aspects of the life of the Ottoman Armenian peasant – tradition, medicine, economy, womanhood, spirituality, etc. – presented to the Constantinople reader.108 In addition, numerous published texts and travel accounts also provided a treasure trove of topographical, archaeological, architectural and historical observation and information.109 Meanwhile, the thousands of petitions that flooded to the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate in Constantinople to be presented to the Sublime Porte in the 1870s and 1880s provided, according to historian Ronald Suny, “an extraordinary record of misgovernment, of arbitrary treatment of a defenceless population and a clear picture of a lack of recourse”.110 These documents delivered to the Porte, yet met without redress, kept the reality of the chaos and dire situation in Ottoman Armenia alive for the Armenian elites of the capital.

  • 111 Arabic: stranger, foreigner, away from one’s country, needy; H. Wehr, 1974, p. 668.
  • 112 N. Lafi, 2011, pp. 8-25; F. Riedler, 2011, pp. 160-166.
  • 113 Hayasdantsi means “a native of Hayasdan” (Armenian for Armenia) as opposed to Hay (an Armenian). In (...)
  • 114 A native of Moush or its region (Մուշ; Muş in present day Turkey), interchangeably referred to as D (...)
  • 115 A native of Van or its region (Վան), interchangeably referred to as Vasbouragantsi (Վասպուրականցի) (...)
  • 116 From the Arabic hamala, to carry; H. Wehr, 1974, pp. 206-207.

25With the abundant availability of such information, Nichanian and his fellow elite Constantinople intellectuals, would never have needed to endure the physical hardships of late nineteenth century travel to and within Ottoman Armenia, a land with few roads and lesser infrastructure, to imagine the land and its people intimately. Indeed Nichanian would never have had to set foot outside the imperial capital, to observe those that he represented in his Wedding. Constantinople was awash with thousands of bantoukhds or gharibs (ղարիպներ)111, migrant workers from Ottoman Armenia.112 For Nichanian and his fellow urban intellectual elites, any abstract conceptualisation of Ottoman Armenia had a powerful material counterpart, a very real physical manifestation on the streets of the imperial capital embodied in the recognizable form of the provincial migrant, referred to collectively as the Hayasdantsi113, and in particular Mshetsi114 or Vanetsi bantoukhd115, most visible in the figure of the hamal.116

  • 117 A Practical Suggestion, Arevelk, no. 1891, 5 May 1890.
  • 118 D. Quataert, 1997, pp. 786-787; C. Clay, 1998, pp. 1-32; S. Bdeian, 1962, pp. 26-30.
  • 119 A comparative study of coverage of this phenomenon within the multilingual press of the Empire woul (...)
  • 120 G. Libaridian, 2004, p. 77.
  • 121 M. Khachmerian, 1876. I thank Claire Mouradian for suggesting this work and Levon Avdoyan and Tigra (...)
  • 122 M. Khachmerian, 1876, p. 8.
  • 123 Ibid., pp. 9-11.
  • 124 Ibid., pp. 11-15.
  • 125 Ibid., 1876, pp. 15-29.

26By 1890, the editorial A Practical Suggestion (Գործնական Առաջարկ Մը) published on 5 May in Arevelk claimed that “it is an accepted truth that in comparison with the other peoples of the State [Empire], Armenians have the largest number of bantoukhds in Constantinople”.117 While the phenomenon of migrating for work was certainly not unique among Ottoman Armenians118, its importance to the community is evident by the prevalence of discussion of the many facets of bantkhdoutioun in Constantinople Armenian newspapers from the late 1860s to the mid-1890s.119 For Khrimian, Srvantsdiants and their generation of mid-nineteenth century intellectuals, bantkhdoutioun had constituted the tragic abandonment of Armenia. For others, such as the editor and activist Mgrdich Portukalian (1848-1921), bantkhdoutioun was a sin, the desertion of homeland and denigration of the Armenian name.120 Both sentiments are present in Mardiros Khachmerian’s Life of Armenian Bantoukhds (Կեանք Հայ Պանդխտաց), published in 1876 in Constantinople with the allegorical image of “Armenia”, a desolate woman sitting abandoned among the ruins, reproduced on its cover [see figure 6]. Khachmerian urged all bantoukhds to return to their hearths and homes in Armenia, till its soil and make it blossom.121 Using romantic and religious allegory, Khachmerian divided bantoukhds into three categories122 – the good or fortunate (պանդուխտ բախտաւոր), who diligently sent money to their families and ultimately returned home123; the wretched (պանդուխտ թշուառ), who were exploited and were ultimately unsuccessful124; and those who disappeared without care (պանդուխտ անհոգ իւր հայրենեաց), leaving destitute families behind.125 Unsurprisingly, it is the latter category that is subjected to his greater attention, and for whom his unconcealed ire is reserved.

Figure 6 Allegorical personification of “Armenia” on title page of Mardiros Khachmerian’s Life of Armenian Bantoukhds [Կեանք Հայ Պանդխտաց], Constantinople, 1876

  • 126 Masis, no. 3919, 28 Nov. 1888; Hrant, 1931, p. 24.
  • 127 Arevelk, no. 45, 25 Feb. 1884; V.K. Davidian, 2014, p. 22.
  • 128 V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 11-54.
  • 129 Ibid., 2014, p. 21.
  • 130 See for example: P. Kechian, Arevelk, no. 2260, 27 July 1891; K. Zohrab, Masis, no. 3992, 22 May 18 (...)
  • 131 See for example: A.A. Sourenian, Dzaghig, 23 Feb. 1891, no. 24, pp. 1-2; Y. Demirdjibashian, Dzaghi (...)

27The 1880s and 1890s Realists were particularly interested in the bantoukhds’ living and working conditions in the city, in Constantinople. No intellectual treated and represented their experience to the extent and with the sensitivity, empathy and active involvement as the writer Melkon Gurdjian (1859-1915). Writing under the nom-de-plume Hrant, he represented the bantoukhds’ life in all its facets in his Letters of the Bantoukhd (Պանդուխտի Նամակներ)126, a series of twenty or so “letters” written in Constantinople and published in the (by then) weekly Masis between 1888 and 1892. Hrant’s concerns were clearly evoked in the work of Constantinople Armenian artists such as in Srabian’s Manoug Aghpar (1884)127 and Simon Hagopian’s (1857-1921)128 intensely psychological Portrait of a Mshetsi Hamal.129 Yet, as ought to be expected, in sharp contrast to the Realists’ active engagement with, and empathy for, the bantoukhds, a wide spectrum of diverse voices – some balanced130 while others extremely hostile towards bantoukhds131 – also existed and made themselves heard.

  • 132 Pazmaveb, Oct. 1867, no. 27, pp. 307-313.
  • 133 Multidisciplinary Armenological journal published since 1843.
  • 134 Arabic: “unmarried man”.
  • 135 Also known as the kavor (քաւոր) or gnkahayr (կնքահայր).
  • 136 Head of the azab: from the Turkish for head (başi).
  • 137 Pazmaveb, Oct. 1867, no. 27, p. 308.
  • 138 Ibid., p. 311.
  • 139 Ibid.
  • 140 See e.g. Bp. K. Srvantsdiants, 1978, vol. 1, pp. 260-273, 518-520, 529-531.

28Weddings were an important part of nineteenth century ethnographic literary interest in Ottoman Armenia, and the wealth of information and detail published in the Ottoman Armenian press would have provided ample material for Nichanian. The very informative study Wedding Ceremony in the Province of Moush (Հանդէս Հարսանեաց Մուշ Գաւառին Մէջ)132 published in the Mekhitarist journal Pazmaveb133 in Venice in October 1867 provides a fascinating early example of this ethnographic turn (while also revealing fascinating insights into the nature and extent of Armeno-Kurdish cultural interactions). Hence we learn, for example, that: the groom was referred to as the “King”, the Takvor (Թագւոր); his unmarried friends, were known as azab (ազապ)134; their leader, often the best man, was known as the khachaghpar (խաչաղբար, the “cross-brother”)135 and doubled up as the azabbashi (ազապպաշի)136; the Takvor’s ceremonial headwear, called the vartabsag tak (վարդապսակ թագ, rose-wreathed crown) contained “multicoloured golden roses shaped out of non-precious metallic tin” (գոյնզգոյն ոսկի թիթեղներէ շինուած վարդեր)137 which the khachaghpar, alongside bodyguards selected from the azab, had a duty to defend by force if need be from being stolen138; etc. Occasionally the detail provided contradicts Pashalian’s (or Nichanian’s) assumptions: for example, the two women on either side of the bride would never have been the bride’s sisters but the closest female relatives of the groom, also responsible for dressing the bride, known by the Kurdish word brbook (պրպուքներ).139 The same ethnographic spirit is evident in Srvantsdiants’s numerous collected samples of wedding songs and dances published in his volumes Manana (Մանանա, Manna) and Hamov Hodov (Համով Հոտով, With the Taste and the Aroma), published in Constantinople in 1876 and 1884 respectively.140

29Aside from an easy recourse to such ethnographic material, Nichanian, in his quest for models for the Wedding would turn to the Hayasdantsi bantoukhds, the men and women who represented the face of Ottoman Armenia on the streets of the imperial capital. Pashalian explains:

  • 141 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

In order to accurately execute the true to type character of those provincial faces, to reproduce with perfect truthfulness the expressiveness of all the items of clothing, of all the costumes, of all the wedding items and furniture, with their local colour, Nichanian Efendi has ungrudgingly taken upon himself [to suffer] all the troubles [expected of] an artist of conscience, searching every corner of our capital to seek out all the types that could best suit his purpose, defeating these provincials’ naturally inborn untrustworthiness and instinctual unwillingness by all means, by convincing and beseeching the provincial women to come and sit opposite him [to pose] for hours to serve as models. And yet, the result has amply rewarded all his labours. For the artist, the excessive fatigue and the endured anxieties, the trials of inspiration and execution [have all paid off, for] the work, his creation, is there before him, gay and joyful, and already all [the artist’s] toil has been forgotten.141

30Beyond providing much information of the urban artist’s working methods this text is also a particularly revealing document of the dissonant and often contradictory attitudes towards rural provincials among urban intellectuals of the Constantinople Realist generation. Nichanian’s selection of candidates for the purpose of sketching would have reaffirmed his own preconceived notions of what or who constituted a suitable Hayasdantsi type. Pashalian’s, and Nichanian’s, essentialisation of those from the periphery, involving the simultaneous idealisation and romanticisation of perceived virtues on the one hand and the deploring of “innate” or “instinctual” defects on the other, all within the confines of a single article, or paragraph even, provides a fascinating picture of the orientalisation and othering of their provincial fellow-Armenian from the Ottoman East. Consider, for example, the shift in Pashalian’s tone when he proceeds to enumerate the Hayasdantsis’ virtues:

  • 142 Ibid.

I observe the bride and her sisters first. A respectable, modest, blush has spread upon the bride’s face, her eyes glancing downwards. Upon her broad face is spread an innocent sinless purity. Beside her, an older woman’s face is visible in its entirety, the lines upon her face looser and with the sweetness of a delicious fruit, in her dull glaucous eyes modesty and strength intertwined. […] And each face possesses its own unique character and characteristic. The youth are vigorous, lively and joyful, the older folk upright and erect like the hollow oak tree that still rises tall with its head high. There is however a pensive quality upon everyone’s face, and it is into the rendering of the expressiveness of these gazes that the artist has directed his greatest skill [my italics throughout].142

  • 143 See F. Riedler, 2011, pp. 160-166.
  • 144 U. Makdissi, 2002, pp. 768-796; S. Deringil, 2011.

31The dissonances that coexist within Pashalian’s, and Nichanian’s, attitudes towards the migrant provincial, in addition to the gendering of deeply held stereotypical beliefs and objectification, encompassing and conflating idealisation (“sinless purity”, “physical strength”, “pride”, etc.) and vilification (“untrustworthiness”, “laziness”, “dirtiness and poor hygiene”, “stupidity”, “ignorance”, etc.) at their extremes, abounds on the pages of the Ottoman Armenian press. The abundance of varied views, replete with preconceptions and romanticisation, and their voicing on the pages of the press is unsurprising, given that the experience of the Hayasdantsi in his or her homeland, or in bantkhdoutioun, the experience of the bantoukhd in the big city, is the subject that dominates the pages of Ottoman Armenian newspapers throughout the entire second half of the nineteenth century.143 Furthermore, such attitudes, underscored by a perceived urban superiority over their rural counterparts, were not the sole domain of Constantinople Armenians towards their provincial brethren, but were widespread across different Ottoman communities at all levels of society, perhaps becoming more pronounced when viewed within the context of nineteenth century attempts at centralization of Empire, and read as part of modernization and so-called Westernisation processes.144

32Many of these views coalesce within Pashalian’s review of Nichanian’s painting, exposing the Realist reviewer’s internalisation of opposing traits of attitudes towards the provincials and the bantoukhd. Beyond the descriptive, Pashalian’s reflections betray the building up of a multi-layered allegorical reading, which despite being projected onto the canvas, could not be written about. Paragraph upon paragraph, an emotional aura is woven around the painting, alluding to but not naming its perceived allegorical content and disguised meanings. In the process, Pashalian’s text exposes the powerful romantic undercurrent that survives in the Constantinople Armenian manifestation of Realism of the 1880s and 1890s. The melancholic sentimentality of his response captures a mood at once at odds with what ought to be a joyful spirit for a painting of what is after all a festive occasion, a wedding celebration. By the end of his article, Pashalian has run out of things to say:

  • 145 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

And so, contemplate for a while longer, and you become emotional, touched by intense feelings stirred up from the depth of your heart. The artist has attained his goal, [for] he has awakened that tiny emotive nerve thread that jolts your entire body, and your hand, guided by instinct, searches for the hand of the artist, to express with a firm burning squeeze that which the lips are unable to convey.145

  • 146 28 July 1890 (New Calendar).
  • 147 The Hnchagian Party was a socialist organization founded by Russian, not Ottoman, Armenians in Gene (...)
  • 148 For a nationalist take of Kumkapi see L. Nalbandian 1967, pp. 118-119. For a different viewpoint se (...)
  • 149 See M.Ş. Hanioglu, 2008, pp. 125-126; J. Strauss 2005, p. 238; E. Boyar, 2006, pp. 417-432; A. Khar (...)
  • 150 See e.g. Arevelk, 16 July 1890, no. 1949; 21 July 1890, no. 1954; and 28 July 1890, no. 1960.
  • 151 J. Strauss, 2005, p. 230; E. Boyar, 2006, pp. 417-432.
  • 152 A. Kharatyan, 1989, p. 237.
  • 153 Ibid., pp. 237, 241, 267. H. Baronian, 1995, pp. 379, 380.
  • 154 Ibid., pp. 270-271. Both Arpiarian and Pashalian sympathised with the Hnchag party but rejected the (...)

33It is not difficult to comprehend the reasons behind the gloom and sorrow of Pashalian’s review: one only needs to consult the timing of its publication. A Provincial Wedding had been published less than a fortnight after the Kumkapi demonstration of 15 July 1890146, organized by Hnchag147 activists, that for the first time saw the desperate situation in Ottoman Armenia rear up violently onto the streets of the Ottoman capital.148 Arevelk’s treatment of the event in the two weeks preceding Pashalian’s text is instructive of the climate of fear and suspicion, re-enforced by a regime of strict censorship, often arbitrary and capricious149, and self-censorship, barely daring to comment on the event itself, and referring to it instead via the reproduction of articles, that carefully adhered to the official line, from the Turkish language press.150 Censorship was a powerful tool used by the autocratic Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1908/9) regime to control or influence the press via threats of closure or offers of protection and subsidies.151 Its manifestation and tightening developed gradually and was often exercised differently on newspapers published in different Ottoman languages at different times and different places.152 By 1890 the word “Armenia”, regarded seditious by the regime, had all but disappeared from print and it is not accidental that Pashalian does not use the word once.153 Soon after the publication of Pashalian’s review of Nichanian’s Wedding Arpiarian was arrested as a sympathizer of a revolutionary party (only to be pardoned and released in January 1891) while Pashalian avoided arrest by fleeing to Europe.154 Nichanian’s Wedding and Pashalian’s review should be considered as part of a, by 1890 already established, tradition of representing Ottoman Armenia and the Hayasdantsi, in the homeland and in bantkhdoutioun. Yet, whatever Nichanian’s original ideas and intentions, as posited by Arpiarian, by the end of the decade they had developed into something else. Pashalian’s response to the painting reveals the reading of allegorical content, which he found deeply troubling, impacted by the spilling of the deteriorating conditions in Ottoman Armenia onto the streets of Constantinople.

Representation and Censorship in 1880s Constantinople

  • 155 For a discussion of AZKASER’s review of Srabian’s Beggar see M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 131-133.
  • 156 AZKASER [Ազգասէր], the nom de plume of an undetermined author means “lover of nation”.
  • 157 I was allowed access to this painting in July 2014. The work is not on display and is listed as Poo (...)
  • 158 AZKASER, Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882. The reviewer’s entire focus is on the output of artists from (...)
  • 159 These are not isolated cases – for example, Arpiarian’s 1884 discussion of another Srabian painting (...)

34This section introduces a painting by another Constantinople artist Bedros Srabian, and a review of the work, to the discussion of Nichanian’s Wedding and Pashalian’s article, as a means of drawing out more nuanced readings and understandings of these texts and images, and to help pronounce the specificities of their historical environments, especially in relation to censorship. The lengthy article Painting Exhibition (Նկարահանդէս)155, published on 28 May in the liberal Constantinople daily Masis, and signed by a reviewer writing under the nom-de-plume AZKASER (ԱԶԳԱՍԷՐ)156 provides a more typical example of art criticism in 1880s Constantinople devoting all of four sentences [see figure 7] to Srabian’s An Armenian Beggar from Van (1882) [see figure 8].157 Despite the limited space awarded to the painting in an extensive review of the 1882 exhibition of the Artists of the Bosphorus and Constantinople (the ABC club) under the patronage of Lord Dufferin, the British Ambassador158, AZKASER’s words on Srabian’s Beggar evoke the emotional timbre and tone of Pashalian’s review of Nichanian’s Wedding, making a close parallel reading of these two texts, responses to two different paintings, a useful exercise.159 Meanwhile, Srabian’s depiction of a beggar also conforms to the far more common approach taken by Constantinople Armenian artists of the 1880s and 1890s, that of depicting individual figures drawn from the neediest strata of the city’s bantoukhd population to comment upon the dismal economic and increasingly precarious political situation in Ottoman Armenia and reflect upon the migrants’ hard life in Constantinople. Presenting Srabian’s painting, AZKASER notes:

  • 160 The first painting discussed was that of two Jewish scrap sellers, “fine specimen of the Hebrew typ (...)
  • 161 In Roberts’ text the word has been inadequately translated to “wanderings”, as a result of which th (...)
  • 162 AZKASER Painting Exhibition (Նկարահանդէս), Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882. Roberts only reproduces pa (...)

The second [painting]160 represents an Armenian beggar from Van, with his colourful rags and dark blue headdress, who leaning upon his stick looks [at the viewer] with pitiful eyes. The expression of this painting is extremely tender and heart rending (յոյժ սրտառուչ). The sensitive brush of the author has succeeded in personifying the bantkhdoutioun161 and plundering (հարստահարութիւն) of our provincial brethren. I saw foreigners who were saddened before this sight (երեւոյթ), and perhaps, wasn’t it natural that I should weep, I who is not a connoisseur of the arts (արուեստագէտ), but simply AZKASER.162

Figure 7 Final paragraph discussing Srabian’s Armenian Beggar from Van
AZKASER, Painting Exhibition (Նկարահանդէս), Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882

Figure 8 Bedros Srabian, Armenian Beggar from Van, 1882
Oil on canvas, 94 x 71 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 163 Arevelk, no. 659, 15 March 1886. The Report enumerates the activities of the committee including it (...)
  • 164 Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857, 2889.
  • 165 Ibid., 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857.
  • 166 Yedi Kilise.
  • 167 Yanal Köyü, Soradir. Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857.
  • 168 Other areas such as Biledjik (Bileçik), and Nicomedia were also helped, yet the emphasis was on Van (...)
  • 169 Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857.

35The apparent affinity in tone between AZKASER’s and Pashalian’s texts, both aimed at an urban, liberal, Constantinople readership, finds both reviewers responding to their respective paintings with heightened emotional sentimentality. Yet these similarities in tone and timbre only serve to camouflage the dramatically different environments in 1882 and 1890 that informed the production and interpretation of the two works. While Pashalian wrote his review on the Wedding in the immediate aftermath of the Kumkapi demonstration, the exhibition of Srabian’s painting, and the publication of AZKASER’s review, coincided with the after effects of a catastrophic famine in Ottoman Armenia, with the region of Van particularly badly hit in 1880 and especially in 1881, resulting in massive relief efforts. The disaster received extensive, often daily, coverage in Constantinople Armenian newspapers, including Masis, where articles discussed the famine, and lists of donations in aid of those affected were still being published as late as 1886. On 14 March 1886 Arevelk published all 56 articles of the lengthy 1885 Report of the Central Caretaker Committee for the Famine Stricken (Տեղեկագիր Սովելոց Խնամատար Կեդրոնական Յանցնաժողովոյ 1885) on its front page, that summarised the activities of the relief effort in response to the famine of 1880 and 1881, with an emphasis on the region of Van, where relief work was overseen by Khrimian Hayrig himself (the Armenian name for the region, Vasbouragan was used throughout the Report).163 The complete Report, edited between 22 April and completed on 9 September 1884, by Archbishop Maghakia Ormanian (1841-1918), later Patriarch of Constantinople between 1896 and 1908, revealing the scale of the humanitarian effort, including the names of all donors and detailing the unprecedented fund-raising efforts in Constantinople, and as far as America, India and Java, in order to feed the needy, was published as a separate volume.164 Writing in 1912 in his three-volume magnum opus Azkabadoum (Ազգապատում, History of the Armenian Church)165, of the immediate aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War of 1876-1877, and the catastrophic famine in Ottoman Armenia in 1881, Ormanian, a leading actor in the relief effort, recalled that the committee established to organise aid to Ottoman Armenia, had “provided agricultural means, prepared agricultural planning, encouraged [the development of] various crafts, and facilitated the work of cultivators by providing them with animals and equipment on a loan basis, so as not to encourage handouts that had not resulted from toil to serve towards dangerous sluggishness (վտանգաւոր դատարկապորտութիւն) and lowly beggary (մուրացիկ ստորնութիւն)”. Ormanian particularly highlighted the establishment of a new agricultural school at Varak166, as well as schools in locations such as Van and Aghpag167. According to the Report, alongside Armenian victims, Kurds, Turks, Assyrians and Nestorians also received assistance168, Ormanian later explaining that despite that “it was mainly the needy Armenians who were the target [for relief], […] neighbouring peoples of the Armenians were equally taken care of”.169

  • 170 While providing a well-framed analysis of the text and image, Roberts offers an incomplete picture, (...)
  • 171 For example, writing in 1870, Frederick Millingen notes that “In Constantinople, and throughout Tur (...)
  • 172 Arevelk, no. 473, 31 July 1885.
  • 173 S. Astourian, 2011, p. 58.
  • 174 C. Clay, 1998, pp. 1, 3.
  • 175 R.G. Suny, 1993, p. 65.
  • 176 R. Mirak, 1983, p. 18.
  • 177 From R. Mirak, 1983, p. 18.

36While the message of Srabian’s painting had been the inability of Ottoman Armenia to feed itself170, his Beggar had been built upon, and had provided embodiment for the age-old epithet “Van Armenian”, or “Van Ermeni171, a popular synonym for poverty and destitution across the Empire. Widespread poverty in the rural regions around lake Van and across Ottoman Armenia had been nothing new, evident in the hundreds of chronicles, articles, editorials and reports, an ever-present feature on the pages of the Ottoman Armenian press throughout the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s, that advocated development, the establishment of economic infrastructure, the strengthening of agriculture, the creation of markets, and especially highlighted the role of education as the means of alleviating poverty and stemming the flow of emigration from Ottoman Armenia. Articles, such as M. Maloyan’s Economic Observations: The Current Economic Crisis (Տնտեսական Նկատողութիւնք – Ներկայ Տնտեսական Տագնապը), dated Van, 18 July 1885, and published in Arevelk on 31 July 1885 detailed the crisis in agriculture, enumerating and analysing the reasons behind it.172 The historian Stephan Astourian has explained that the “socioeconomic and interethnic relations in the eastern provinces from the 1860s on, and not European diplomacy”, were at “the core of the Armenian Question”.173 After all, the areas of Ottoman Armenia from where emigration to the capital was highest was a region where the major form of economic activity was subsistence farming; it lacked roads, railways and almost all of the infrastructure which could have spearheaded economic development and led to the possibility of exporting of mineral wealth and any agricultural surplus production. There was no manufacturing industry, while heavy taxation, unbalanced by any compensating government expenditure due to the weakness of central government ensured that the regional economy remained deeply and chronically depressed.174 In 1882, the characteristics of Ottoman Armenia were economic stagnation, physical insecurity and social disorder.175 Severe famines in 1881 and 1887 and epidemic outbreaks of cholera in 1887, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893 and 1894 were frequent visitors.176 An 1888 report from Bitlis reported that the bitter cry of the “Turkish Armenian provinces” was “poverty, poverty, misrule and hunger”.177

  • 178 In Roberts this has been erroneously translated as PATRIOT, while an understanding that this was th (...)
  • 179 According to this view Constantinople was also the centre of the nation. From this vantage point, s (...)
  • 180 A confessional community; see A. Sanjian, 1965, pp. 31-45; B. Braude, 1982, pp. 69-87.
  • 181 G. Libaridian, 2004, p. 51.

37The foremost clue for a political component in AZKASER’s reading of Srabian’s Beggar apparent in the review lies within the very nom-de-plume of its author. The word azkaser (ազգասէր), correctly translated to “lover of nation”, sums up the dominant ideological position of the mostly urban, liberal Armenian readership of Masis, and from 1884 onwards Arevelk.178 There were different, developing and often contrasting, manifestations of Ottoman Armenian “nationalisms” throughout the nineteenth century, and in 1882, the reviewer of Srabian’s painting had used his ideological position as his pen name. When contemplating the late nineteenth century Ottoman Armenian context, azkasiroutioun (Ազգասիրութիւն, love of nation179) and hayrenasiroutioun (Հայրենասիրութիւն, love of fatherland, patriotism – a “patriot” is a hayrenaser (հայրենասէր)) represented two distinct poles of Ottoman Armenian political and ideological attitudes towards how the nation, the millet180 and Ottoman Armenia at different times and places were understood. Making the distinction between these two positions (that were far from fixed), the historian Gerard Libaridian has observed that the abstract concept of “nationalism” has been used to universalise the nineteenth century Armenian experience, thus overshadowing “the exact processes that give meaning to the term at different times and in different places”.181 Libaridian explains:

  • 182 G. Libaridian 2004, p. 52.

In the context of the Ottoman Armenian people, the difference between azgasirutiune [sic] (love of nation) and hayrenasirutiune [sic] reflected not only a chronological progression in political thought, but also divergent, if not conflicting, class concerns.182

  • 183 Panossian posits its best institutional incarnation as the Armenian National Constitution (Ազգային (...)
  • 184 This started to become the dominant view from Ottoman Armenia, where the “fatherland” and hence ter (...)
  • 185 Panossian interprets the different dynamics of this process and divides them, in an attempt at simp (...)
  • 186 R. Panossian, 2006, p. 175.
  • 187 Dz. Derderian, 2014, p. 169.

38This makes recognising the specificities of either position, as well as the often-sharp tensions between them, crucial. The culture-laden azkasiroutioun of Constantinople183 and the hayrenasiroutioun of Ottoman Armenia184, represented distinct positions and two of different notions in the process of articulation of nationhood, and, as explained by the political historian Razmik Panossian, its “multilocal” development.185 In the late nineteenth century, hayrenasiroutioun, with its concentration on territoriality, and the relationship of the peasant to the land, drew heavily on the ideas of men like Khrimian and Portukalian, where “Armenia”, was represented as both actor and source of identity.186 Yet, even, for example, as the case of Khrimian (for whom territoriality was a central component of identity) illustrates, one needs to exercise caution and consider, to paraphrase the historian Dzovinar Derderian’s astute observation, how and why it was possible for such an influential figure in the Ottoman Empire of the nineteenth century to cultivate such strong territorial notions of nationhood while at the same time be committed to reforms that contributed to the centralisation of Ottoman governance.187

Figure 9 Simon Hagopian, Beggar Woman from Van, 1889
Oil on canvas, 55 x 46 cm, private collection, Istanbul
[Photographed by Vazken Khatchig Davidian]

  • 188 There are two known versions, one of which is dated 1889, the other is unknown.
  • 189 R. Shishmanian, 1958, p. 243.
  • 190 See for example: H. Srents, The Beggar Mother (Մուրացիկ Մայրը), Arevelk, no. 2664, 16 Dec. 1892; or (...)

39The introduction of another painting, Hagopian’s Beggar Woman from Van188 [see figure 9], alongside Srabian’s Armenian Beggar from Van can be instructive to underscore the argument for nuance and specificity. Both works provide examples of artistic engagement with that Ottoman Armenian Realist preoccupation, the bantoukhd, in this instance the figure of the beggar. The artist and art historian Raphael Shishmanian (1885-1959) notes how in the 1870s, scores of wretched and desperate bantoukhds in rags from Ottoman Armenia, having been unable to find work in Constantinople, would wander the streets of the Armenian populated districts of the city begging, often eliciting the sympathy and help of the artist Mgrdich Djivanian for protection against attacks and abuse by stone-throwing scoundrels.189While it is important to note that not all representations of beggars by Ottoman Armenian or other Ottoman artists and writers were concerned with either migrants or Ottoman Armenia, but engaged with the widespread social phenomenon of begging in the city190, a number, such as those represented in Srabian’s and Hagopian’s paintings were. Utilising naturalism and realist visual vocabularies often associated with Orientalist painting, such works appealed to the ethnographic sensibilities of Ottoman urban elites and European residents and visitors to Constantinople alike. Yet, they were by design meant to elicit empathetic responses from, especially, their Ottoman Armenian viewers. That they were successful is attested by references to such works in the Ottoman Armenian press throughout the 1880s and 1890s. In much the same way as Gurdjian’s Letters, and the hundreds of articles and editorials in Arevelk, and Masis throughout the 1880s and 1890s (and Hayrenik between 1891 to 1896), these images confronted the urban Constantinople viewer, acting as open invitations towards empathy for the poor and dispossessed rural migrants from Ottoman Armenia on the streets of the imperial capital.

40Srabian’s Armenian Beggar from Van and Hagopian’s Beggar Woman from Van, painted in 1882 and 1889 respectively, are both direct and immediate, where nothing detracts from the desperation and abject poverty of the subjects. The bare feet of the old woman and the dirty fingernails of her outstretched hand, and the pathetic, imploring fatalism present in the posture and gaze of the man highlight their subjects’ plight. Hagopian has used the gender and age of his beggar woman as signs projecting further layers of meaning, of desperation and loneliness onto the figure of an old helpless woman on the streets, defenceless in a patriarchal society. His realist visual vocabulary, somewhat grittier than Srabian’s, and more Realist, perhaps mirrors or reflects the subtle developments among the artists’ literary counterparts, a quiet departure from the more explicit Romantic overtones of the earliest days of Ottoman Armenian Realism towards a more naturalist maturity. The background of Hagopian’s beggar especially recalls the practice of late nineteenth century photographic studios of photographing subjects outdoors, with the blank canvas of the wall with its cracks serving to reinforce an aura of poverty and heighten the sense of destitution. From their shared vantage point of urban Constantinople, both artists associated with the liberal milieu of the city, name “Van” as the place of origin for their subjects, drawing attention at once to the socio-economic plight of Ottoman Armenia and the hardships of bantoukhds in the city.

  • 191 Translated in Roberts’ as “depredations”, which dilutes the full effect of the word.
  • 192 See S. Astourian, 2011.
  • 193 The Committee for Inspection and Controls (Encümen-i teftiş ve muayene) whose duties also included (...)
  • 194 M. Roberts, 2015, p. 134.
  • 195 V.K. Davidian, 2014, p. 24-47.

41Yet, as seen in the different environments of AZKASER’s and Pashalian’s reviews, much had changed between 1882 (the immediate aftermath of the 1881 famine which provided the context for Srabian’s painting), and 1889. The situation in Ottoman Armenia had worsened significantly, culture had become increasingly politicised, the State regarded any projection of Armenian identity as seditious, while censorship had become tighter. These changes in the censorship regime between 1882 and 1889/1890 come into sharper focus when AZKASER’s use of harsdaharoutioun (հարստահարութիւն), meaning plundering, is considered.191 The word is an uncompromisingly direct and blatant reference to, and indictment of, specifically, the rampant lawlessness of Ottoman Armenia, the corruption, extortion, brutal treatment, exaction of arbitrary taxes and misappropriation of property primarily by Kurdish tribes and aghas, and the absence of central government.192 Yet, the extraordinary incidence of such a laden word escaping the censor’s scalpel is close to unthinkable in 1890 Constantinople, highlighting the very different political conditions at play between 1882 and 1890. Meanwhile, Roberts explains the uncensored exhibition of Srabian’s 1882 painting as due to the authorities193 reading of the work not as a critique of the Ottoman state, but instead as a benign ethnographic representation.194 This is unsurprising as in 1882 the reference to Van in the painting’s title would have triggered overwhelming associations with poverty and famine. The question that arises is whether Hagopian’s Beggar or Nichanian’s Wedding, or a review such as AZKASER’s, would have passed censorship controls in 1889 and 1890. We can already see the erasure of any reference to “Armenian” in Hagopian’s Beggar (even though contemporaries would have instantly identified the subject and location with that particular identity), while nowhere in Pashalian’s article of Nichanian’s Wedding do the words “Armenia” or “Moush” appear. While I have been unable to establish whether Hagopian’s Beggar and Nichanian’s Wedding had ever been shown at an exhibition or displayed in public, I would dare speculate that in the political environment of 1889 and especially 1890 Constantinople that would have veered towards the unlikely. Meanwhile, although a more overtly political reading of Hagopian’s 1889 painting (in contrast to Srabian’s 1882 Beggar) might have been justifiable due to the worsening political environment, I believe that even here we should err on the side of caution, because of this artist’s careful avoidance of any public controversy due to his often-precarious socio-economic position of dependency. Whatever allegorical meaning was intended in this work, subtlety would have been the order of the day.195

Reading Nichanian’s Wedding: Art as Barometer of Historical Moment

42Nichanian’s Armenian Wedding in Moush is a work by a respected artist-intellectual, painted at the height of his fame, whose western art education and thorough grounding in academic painting come through clearly in its conceptualization, composition and execution. We know that Nichanian laboured on the work for years, and unusually for a commercial native artist produced it outside traditional channels of patronage. The length of time spent and the work’s monumental scale indicate its evident importance to the artist, who according to Arpiarian and Pashalian, spared no effort in researching, contemplating and striving towards the accomplishment of a truthful image of a traditional Armenian wedding set in Ottoman Armenia.

43Whatever Nichanian’s initial conceptions, during the process of the work’s production, the shifting socio-political environment had necessarily crept into the content of the work, and the way it was received. This section seeks to excavate Nichanians’ intentions as they developed across time, including his attempts to bypass constraints of increasingly tight censorship. It proposes that the artist’s resort to allegory as a means of commenting upon the situation in Ottoman Armenia under a cloak of ethnological naturalism and realism constituted an attempt in evoking through paint what his contemporaries were unable to express in print without risking serious repercussions: in late 1880s Constantinople the painting’s Ottoman Armenian subject matter made the subtle use of allegory a less fraught means of engaging with issues that obviously concerned the artist deeply. As such the Wedding provides an insightful barometer of its specific historical moment. Viewed within this context, the absence of even a single reference to “Moush” or “Armenia” anywhere in Pashalian’s 1890 review is a direct reflection of his zeitgeist. Yet, Nichanian’s selection of Moush as imagined site for his Wedding far from being accidental, was at the heart of his message.

Figure 10 Gnouni, Engraving of Garabed Nichanian’s Wedding of the Mshetsis

[Մշեցոց Հարսանիք], Tadron, Tiflis, Dec. 1899

AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 196 Tadron, 1899, book 6.
  • 197 For descriptions of the town of Moush see for example Fr. Gh. Indjidjian, 1806, vol. 2, pp. 187-188 (...)

44The first reference in print to the locality of the celebrants, despite the apparent allusions of the subjects’ dress to contemporaries, was only in 1899, with the publication of Nichanian’s Wedding in the Tiflis journal Tadron [see figure 10].196 The region of Moush had featured centrally in the mid-nineteenth century literary re-orientation and ethnographic turn towards Ottoman Armenia with a wealth of information on the town, its environs and the surrounding region widely available to Constantinople intellectual elites.197 See for example the extensive report by Ն. (N.) Correspondences of Arevelk: The Plain of Moush (Թղթակցութիւնք «Արեւելք»ի: Մշոյ Դաշտ), published in Arevelk on 26 March 1884, based on two years of travel through the region in 1882 and 1883, which encapsulates this importance and links past with present:

  • 198 Ն. (N.), Arevelk, no. 70, 26 March 1884.

It was in this plain that [in the past] were situated a great many of the pagan Armenians’, and [as are] today Christian Armenians’ holiest and most sacred sites […] These include the most glorious monastery, the feudal fief of the Illuminator, St Garabed by name and the third holiest among religious sites [after Echmiadzin and St Hagop in Jerusalem] […] despite troubles, massacres and pillaging, the Plain of Moush is still home to no fewer than one hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom eighty thousand are Armenians and the remainder Turkish and Kurdish Muslims. Of its one hundred and twenty villages, ninety are Armenian inhabited and thirty inhabited by others.198

  • 199 Ibid.
  • 200 R. Hewsen, 2001, p. 45.
  • 201 Fr. Gh. Indjidjian 1806, p. 180.
  • 202 R. Hewsen, 2001, p. 45.
  • 203 Ibid., p. 48.
  • 204 Popularly referred to as Մշոյ Սուլթան Սուրբ Կարապետ [St. Garabed Sultan of Moush], it was dedicated (...)
  • 205 R. Hewsen, 2001, pp. 43-45.

45Idealising the “primitiveness” of the Mshetsis’ dwellings and lifestyle and praising their “preservation of ancient Armenian dress and language”, the author concluded that “Armenians of [only a] few places have maintained as many Armenian traditions as the Mshetsis199. Important to Armenian historical memory as the birthplace of saints and warriors, the hereditary fiefdom of the House of Krikor the Illuminator and passing through marriage after 438 AD to the House of the Mamigonians, hereditary commanders-in-chief (Սպարապետ) to the royal army200, this was the ancient Armenian province of Daron, land of monasteries and pilgrimage, imagined in the nineteenth century as the citadel-repository of timeless traditions, customs and the idealised glory of ancient Armenia.201 Daron was also the earliest centre of Christianity, and the part of Armenia where the first missionaries had arrived from Syria.202 Robert Hewsen counts at least 25 major monasteries in the region.203 Of these, tradition records that the Monastery of St. Garabed204, Ottoman Armenia’s holiest religious shrine, was built on the site of the most sacred pagan temple of Ashdishad (Աշտիշատ) of classical Armenia.205

  • 206 S. Bdeian, 1962, pp. 27-28, 30.
  • 207 This was also true for Russian Armenian artists. Shirvanzadé complains of a glut of Mshetsis at the (...)
  • 208 Vahé, Arevelk, no. 1877, 19 April 1890.

46By the 1880s and 1890s, due to ever-increasing levels of migration, as attested by Sarkis Bdeian206, Moush and the Mshetsi had become synonyms for bantkhdoutioun, impoverishment, misrule and hamal. Bantoukhds from the plain of Moush appeared disproportionately on the streets of Constantinople, particularly among the hamals and other professions of low social status. This coincided with, and explains to some degree, the Mshetsis’ emergence in capturing Ottoman Armenian artists’ imagination207, above all others when representing bantkhdoutioun and the impoverishment of Ottoman Armenia (except in the depiction of beggars who throughout the 1880s tended to remain Vanetsis), as exemplified in Srabian’s Manoug Aghpar and Hagopian’s Mshetsi Hamal. The steady supply of migrants is vividly described in Vahé’s article Migrants of Moush (Մշոյ Ղարիպներ) dated “22 March, Moush”, but published in Arevelk on 19 April 1890, with the hardship of their journeys to Constantinople and elsewhere, depicted in copious detail.208

47Bantkhdoutioun, and Moush, as imagined by an urban artist-intellectual in late 1880s Constantinople, are central to any reading Nichanian’s Wedding. For the artist had deliberately selected Moush to act as synecdoche for Ottoman Armenia, whilst the Mshetsi represented a metonymic signifier for the imagined timeless traditions of an ancient land through the meticulous rendering of ethnographic detail, and the embodiment of the modern ill of bantkhdoutioun. Nichanian, Srabian and Hagopian had all drawn on and represented the Hayasdantsi bantoukhd. Yet, while the latter two had chosen to situate them as impoverished migrants and pathetic beggars in the city, Nichanian had in contrast restored them to the dignity of their homeland, as he envisioned it. The question that emerges is what had informed and determined his selection of theme, a scene from a traditional wedding celebration in Ottoman Armenia, and its monumental scale, when most other Constantinople artists tended to resort to subtle, intimate, allegorical portraits or modest ethnographic studies representing mainly destitute migrant men and women in the city. [It is tempting to see an analogy here between artists’ small-scale works and the preponderance of short stories among Constantinople Realists on the one hand, and Nichanian’s project and the limited production of novels on the other.] As already hinted by Arpiarian in 1886, everything points towards an aim of achieving something new, different and ambitious.

48To determine the various attributes of the work, both in a formal sense and in terms of content, it is instructive to dig deeper. With the aim of excavating meaning the essay considers the Wedding alongside three seemingly unrelated works: an eighteenth century painting by the Flemish artist Jean Baptiste Vanmour (1671-1737) of an Armenian wedding procession in Constantinople; a painting of a biblical funeral by Nichanian’s Neapolitan master, Morelli; and a 1913 painting by the Ottoman Armenian artist Yervant Kazazian representing an Armenian wedding ceremony.

  • 209 M. Roberts, 2015, p. 131.
  • 210 An Ottoman corruption of “alla franca”, a style, where western forms were copied for the use of res (...)
  • 211 A discussion of Ottoman photography is beyond the scope of this essay.
  • 212 See for example S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 1989 and 2008. Their thematic treatment of subjects pai (...)
  • 213 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl
  • 214 S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 2002, p. 64. For a discussion of the two works see A. Sakissian, 1921, (...)

49Considering what Roberts has described as the “European-Orientalist ethnographic” sensibilities209 of the Ottoman alafranga210 bourgeoisie and elite, foreign residents in and visitors to nineteenth century Constantinople, one can think of few themes that could surpass a wedding scene or procession as a vehicle for the showcasing of the abundant ethnographic riches, elaborate costumes, wealth of traditions, rituals and native colour of an exotic “Orient”. This would also suggest that representing “Eastern” weddings would therefore have constituted worthwhile commercial undertakings for artists working in the city in the nineteenth century (perhaps this thought did cross Nichanian’s mind). Yet it is not very often that one encounters paintings engaging with such themes. This may be explained in part by the invention of the camera in 1839 and the advent of the photographic studio in the second half of the nineteenth century, ensuring the ubiquity of the Studio wedding photograph.211 Yet, while weddings have been represented on canvas for centuries, paintings and engravings of Ottoman weddings by Western resident artists of Constantinople, such as Vanmour and the German Antoine-Ignace Melling (1763-1831) appear to be rare.212 Among the twenty-nine paintings in the Rijkmuseum’s Collection in Amsterdam attributed to Vanmour, three represent Ottoman nuptials: Greek Wedding (circa 1720-1737) depicting a Greek bride surrounded by numerous women receiving gifts in a magnificent indoor setting, a Muslim wedding in Wedding Procession on the Bosphorus (circa 1720-1737)213 and Armenian Wedding (circa 1720-1737), the latter two depicting processions of celebrants. The artist, who is thought to have arrived in Constantinople in 1699 as a member of the entourage of the new French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, the Marquis de Ferriol, remained in the city, maintaining a workshop of Ottoman Greek and Armenian assistants, who reproduced his compositions until his death, and remained active afterwards.214

Figure 11 Jean Baptiste Vanmour, Armenian Wedding, circa 1720-1737
Oil on canvas, 44.5 x 58.5 cm, image courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

  • 215 O. Nefedova, 2009, p. 105.
  • 216 See S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 2008, p. 22. From the series under the title Recueil de cent estamp (...)
  • 217 Ibid., f. 86.
  • 218 Ibid., f. 87.

50When thinking about Nichanian’s Wedding, a comparison with Vanmour’s eighteenth century painting of an Armenian wedding procession in Constantinople [see figure 11] may appear far-fetched. Yet the exercise may help raise useful questions about Nichanian’s own engagement with a Western artistic tradition, working methods and intentions. While in the absence of evidence it cannot be claimed that Nichanian had been familiar with any of Vanmour’s wedding paintings, there is a sense of affinity between two works that were painted centuries apart, which, however superficial and coincidental, goes beyond the merely thematic. A perusal of Vanmour’s painting confirms the general agreement among art historians of the Flemish artist’s talents for careful observation and precision in quoting local, ethnographic detail in his works.215 This instinct for observation and desire for truthfulness, also shared by Nichanian, finds some of Vanmour’s ethnographic details of an eighteenth century Constantinople wedding of (judging by their dress and fur covered overcoats) affluent Armenians of the city, echoed in the late nineteenth century naturalist painting of a wedding in remote Moush. Like Vanmour, Nichanian has provided a commentary on Armenian wedding traditions via the meticulous rendering of ethnographic detail and visual narrative onto the canvas. In Vanmour’s case such detail is further pronounced in two related engravings216 in which he isolates the leading participants of Armenian Wedding, and by removing them from the crowd brings detail into starker relief: here we notice the sword of the best man escorting the groom to church in Arménien qui va à l’Église pour se marier, accompagné du compère qui porte son sabre217 [see figure 12], or the heavily veiled bride flanked by her two slightly less veiled sisters escorting her to church in Fille arménienne que l’on conduit à l’Église pour la marier218 [see figure 13, p. 198]. In the latter, Vanmour’s caption confirms Pashalian’s assertion that the two women were in fact the bride’s sisters and not relatives of the groom as recorded in the Pazmaveb essay, discussed above.

Figure 12 Jean Baptiste Vanmour, Arménien qui va à l’église pour se marier, accompagné du compère qui porte son sabre, 1714
Copperplate engraving, private collection

Figure 13 Jean Baptiste Vanmour,
Fille arménienne que l’on conduit à l’église pour la marier, 1714
Copperplate engraving, private collection

51There are of course a number of important differences between the works: for example, while the Bosphorus setting of Vanmour’s painting can be readily identified, and his rendering of the procession and its movement are clearly the outcome of direct observation of actual weddings, Nichanian’s evokes theatricality, giving the impression of actors deliberately arranged onto a stage. In the absence of evidence, any familiarity that Nichanian may have had with Vanmour’s paintings of wedding processions (Greek, Muslim and Armenian), or copies thereof, or perhaps the artist’s series of engravings in Italy or Constantinople cannot be proven, and a suggestion that he may have considered Vanmour’s engravings as part of his research would be pure conjecture. Yet even if the similarities and affinity are purely fortuitous, and Nichanian had never set his eyes on these works, considering the two images together still provide fascinating visual documents of Ottoman Armenian wedding traditions and confirmation that while lost to the community of late nineteenth century Constantinople, such traditions very much persisted in rural Ottoman Armenia. This points to the migrant origins of the city’s Armenians thereby revealing the link between the traditions of eighteenth century Ottoman Constantinople Armenians with those of late nineteenth century Ottoman Armenia.

52Many of the similarities and differences between these two narrative paintings, separated by just under two centuries, are best understood with recourse to Western European academic, pictorial and artistic traditions and conventions. However other factors that also make their presence felt in the content of Vanmour’s and Nichanian’s Weddings require an investigation that needs to be expanded beyond the picture plane. Crucially for this essay, the question of why Vanmour’s painting presents an unquestionably, and naturally, joyous affair while Nichanian’s wedding is sombre and tinged with sadness, needs to be asked. Contrast here, for example, the lightness and exuberance of the flamboyant Constantinople dancing boys leading the procession against the apparent melancholy even in the stature of the Mshetsis dancing to the tune of the zurna, their figures frozen in stasis.

53To consider this absence of celebratory spirit we return to Pashalian’s A Provincial Wedding. Here, the final paragraph betrays a half-disguised disappointment or dismay at the lack of appreciation for this painting by wealthy Constantinople Armenian elites, with whom after all Nichanian was extremely well connected. Pashalian ends his review with the following words:

  • 219 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

You will ask now, where will that picture [be housed]? Who has purchased it? Which Armenian grandee’s salon will it grace? The painting has already been bought and will be going to America to be sold there. Any further explanation is all but unnecessary [...]. A wealthy American will pay a hefty sum to purchase the Provincial Wedding, and his guests will study that painting with disimpassioned astonishment and awe, while here, among us, apart from capturing our admiration, [it] would have troubled our heart.219

54Perhaps that it was sold abroad might suggest that, at such a politically charged moment, the Wedding may have been considered too risky an acquisition by members of the city’s elites for whom a painting of such stature would have been intended, cautious of falling foul of the Abdülhamid II regime. While it is unlikely that Nichanian would ever have doubted that a buyer would have been found for this work, the strong sense of unconcealed regret that one gets when reading Pashalian’s text, that the work was about to be sent abroad, to the United States is particularly interesting especially since the artist’s works had often been sold to foreign buyers or had been sent abroad for sale before. How much of this disappointment is Pashalian’s, or reflects Nichanian, may never be known, but perhaps the painting’s “exile” provides an appropriate metaphor to the imminent exile of the reviewer and later departure from Constantinople of the artist.

  • 220 Oil on canvas, 92x162 cm; when shown at the Fourth Venice Biennale in 1901 it was part of the artis (...)
  • 221 Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56 (Jairo’s daughter is about to die) and Matthew 9:18-(where (...)
  • 222 Morelli’s rendering of the tale is strikingly different, more allegorical, than those of other arti (...)

55Pashalian’s reading of the work points to its allegorical content. Thinking of Nichanian’s Wedding, and his use of allegory in the work, a consideration of the oeuvre of the most influential of his teachers, Morelli, himself a master of allegory may prove instructive. In particular Morelli’s famous painting of a funeral, La Figlia di Jairo [see figure 14], completed in 1876, the year before Nichanian’s move to Naples to study under him, may provide some interesting clues.220 The work depicting a story of suffering, death and resurrection tells the biblical tale of the raising of Jairo’s twelve-year-old daughter from the dead.221 Morelli’s large painting captures the moment before the entry of Jesus into the room and the awakening of the girl from her “slumber”.222 In a large, sparsely furnished room, Jairo’s daughter is laid on the floor, asleep or dead, carefully placed on top of an oriental runner, while members of the family and other mourners have gathered around in silent contemplation and prayer.

Figure 14 Domenico Morelli, La Figlia di Jairo
The Studio, XXIV, no. 104, Nov. 1901, p. 89
Size of original painting: 92 x 162 cm, collection of the author

56Whether Nichanian fashioned his Wedding on Morelli’s allegorical meditation of faith and resurrection is again a matter of conjecture, but that he would have seen and known this famous work in Naples is not in doubt. It is in the Wedding, more than any of Nichanian’s known works, where Morelli’s spirit is felt most vividly: visually, intellectually and philosophically. That Nichanian, like Morelli, had drawn on a western tradition of narrative painting, both secular and sacred, and nineteenth century academic realism to produce a deeply allegorical work can be clearly made out in his altar like construction of the space and arrangement of the figures. In terms of compositional devices, the large minimally furnished spaces created by the artists where the drama is allowed to play out bear striking resemblance to one another, albeit viewed from different angles. There would be little affinity between these impressive spaces that Nichanian and Morelli have imagined and the realities of the humble dwellings of Ottoman Armenia or a local notable’s abode in biblical Galilee.

  • 223 See for example H. Gasparyan, 2007.
  • 224 A. Sakiz (Sakissian), 1936, pp. 86-88. Sakiz cites his source as his father, Hovhanness Paşa Sakizy (...)
  • 225 Arevelk, no. 676, 4 April 1886.
  • 226 Ibid.

57Nichanian’s visual language is thoroughly European. The careful arrangement of the woven floor mattes, which the artist utilises as device to create perspective and draw the viewer into the shallow space, suggests the techniques of Italian renaissance masters. Nichanian has transformed the entire picture plane into at once an altar set and theatrical stage, where religious rituals are played out and evoked. Here the symbolism of the trinity seeps in, and is referenced through architectural form and the central positioning of a veiled mother and young child, with a halo of light suggested around their heads framed by a central doorway, through which the conical dome of the church is visible (Nichanian’s use of mother and child figures provides a stark contrast to Vanmour’s light-hearted incorporation of a veiled woman and child at the right hand corner of his painting). The classicism of the architectural forms, the niches, the timber architrave-like lintel above the door, and the pediments with the two plain tympani provide a reference to an ancient Armenia as imagined by the Catholic Mekhitarist fathers of Venice, that had been rendered on their behalf by a number of eighteenth and nineteenth century Italian artists.223 The foremost of these images was an engraving by the artist Michele Fanoli (1807-1876) of an allegorical figure of a woman sitting forlorn among ruined classical columns at the foot of Mount Ararat, which from the mid-nineteenth century onwards had become the ubiquitous visual embodiment of the woes of Armenia – bantkhdoutioun, abandonment, ruination [see figure 6].224 Yet despite Nichanian’s affinity to the Mekhitarists’ imagined vision of Armenia, the dominance of the religious dimension in the Wedding may also point to reflections on the role of the Armenian Orthodox Church as the central pillar of identity of the Ottoman Armenian millet. While Nichanian’s views (or indeed affiliation) on religion, or the Church, are unknown, his use of religious imagery and allegory, and direct reference to the Church at the centre of the painting, may point to the issue of unity around the Armenian Orthodox Church, considered by many as the heart of the Armenian nation (ազգ), understood by Ottoman Armenians as “confessional nation”. Hence, the Wedding may be a warning of perceived threats to tradition in the very citadel of Armenian tradition itself, Moush, with insecurities fuelled by articles such as Provincial News Selected from Correspondences of Arevelk: Moush [Գաւառական Լուրեր «Արեւելք»ի Թղթակցութիւններէ ՔաղուածՄուշ] published in Arevelk on 4 April 1886. In this report from Moush, the correspondent reported that on hearing that a Protestant pastor had presided over marriages of Orthodox Armenians (who still considered themselves as such), the Primate had urgently dispatched a priest to bless and (re)marry the “erring” parties in accordance to the rites of the Armenian Orthodox Church, without which, he reminded them, they could not remain members of the flock.225 This is immediately followed by another report on the complications arising from the insistence of an Armenian Catholic couple of having an Orthodox Armenian best man, despite opposition by the presiding priest, and the priest’s invention of what the correspondent dubs an “alafranga” configuration to overcome the “sin”. The reporter concludes in jest that due to the unusual configuration the blessings might not have taken effect thereby necessitating another round.226

  • 227 I thank Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh for helping me clarify some of the ideas around the central fig (...)

58Yet while religion is present on the large canvas, Nichanian has successfully blurred the sacred and the secular. Despite providing a representation of faith, as Morelli had done in Jairo’s Daughter, Nichanian offers his viewer at once a wake and a prelude to a resurrection. More than mere ethnographic parade or a display of attractive exoticism and quaint traditions, Nichanian articulates hope by suggesting that the resurrection and salvation of Armenia (this is no allusion to independence) lie upon the pillars of its timeless traditions (signified by the wealth of ethnographic detail), its faith (signified by the dome of the ancient church) and its will for survival by clinging onto the land (signified by the fortress and the peasants). In his monumental painting, the wedding scene represents the moment before a new beginning, with the silent veiled bride, the fountain of new life and hope, with her hands clasped over her womb, situated at the very centre of the image to signify procreation and rebirth of the nation227, while the room acts as metaphor for the land itself, its glorious classical structure intact, albeit sparse after centuries of misrule, neglect and impoverishment. The bride, the central figure, is the signifier for hope. On his canvas, Nichanian has began to reverse the tragedy of bantkhdoutioun by returning the bantoukhds to their homeland, seen pouring into the large room through the central door, with the bride – Fanoli’s personification of Armenia – no longer abandoned.

  • 228 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.
  • 229 Not much is known about Yervant Kazazian. He is remembered through the reproduction of two painting (...)

59Yet, despite Nichanian’s articulation of hope, this is far from being a celebratory painting. The sombreness of mood provides a clear reflection of the wretchedness of Ottoman Armenia in the late 1880s as viewed from Constantinople. Why, otherwise, would a painting representing a joyous festivity, trouble Pashalian’s heart to such extent, that could only be expressed with a “firm burning squeeze of the artist’s hand”, that the lips were unable to convey?228. Pashalian’s words, despite taking great care not to provoke the censor, were still able to masterfully convey the artist’s and art critic’s thoughts and emotions to the reader. Here, a consideration of Nichanian’s Wedding as barometer of its specific historical moment is best illustrated by closely reading it alongside Kazazian’s Armenian Wedding, painted circa 1913, that represents another wedding ceremony in an unspecified region of (judging by the attire) Ottoman Armenia [see figure 15]. The following brief discussion of two works of kindred themes by two Ottoman Armenian artists of different generations, both educated and trained in Europe (Naples and Munich respectively), aims to bring into sharp relief the starkly different historical contexts in which the paintings were executed229, with the two works allowed to comment on their own socio-political environment.

Figure 15 Yervant Kazazian, Armenian Wedding, circa 1913, in Navasart, 1914
AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 230 Navasart, 1914, p. 271. The other being Panos Terlemezian’s (1865-1941) well known In the Temple (N (...)
  • 231 Despite Navasart’s claim, there is some confusion whether this painting by an Ottoman Armenian arti (...)
  • 232 Navasart, 1914, p. 271.
  • 233 Navasart 1914, insert between pp. 248 and 249.
  • 234 We are unable to comment on its colour palette or scale.

60According to the first (and only) issue of the Constantinople art and culture journal Navasart, published in 1914, Kazazian’s Armenian Wedding (Հայկական Հարսնիք), painted a quarter of a century after Nichanian’s, was one of only two Ottoman paintings that had become recipients of a gold medal at the Munich International Exhibition.230 The journal reports with satisfaction that unlike the other entrants in the Ottoman section231 it was one of only two paintings to receive any award.232 Yet, not much has been published, or is known about Kazazian’s acclaimed painting, the whereabouts of which, like Nichanian’s Wedding, remain unknown. We are, however, fortunate that the poet, editor and teacher Taniel Varoujan (Tchboukiarian, 1884-1915) and the writer and editor Hagop Sirouni (Djololian, 1890-1973) chose to reproduce it in Navasart,233 with the black and white reproduction of the image234 revealing a skillfully executed painting by an accomplished artist well versed in the latest contemporary artistic developments.

61Despite the common theme, the contrast between Nichanian’s and Kazazian’s wedding paintings cannot be understated. The freedom of Kazazian’s modernist brush provides a powerful counterpoint to Nichanian’s conservative, meticulously controlled academic precision. While Nichanian by his own admission, had reserved his admiration for the masters of the past and the more conservative academic painters of his day rather than the avant-garde, experimental artists of the 1870s and 1880s, Kazazian’s brave painting, thoroughly modern in execution and composition, is looking towards fauvism and expressionism. Furthermore, the quarter of a century that separates the two works, more than suggesting a merely stylistic or temporal gulf between the two, presents two fundamentally different visions of Ottoman Armenia.

  • 235 See B. Der Matossian, 2014.

62The immediate difference, that becomes instantly apparent when comparing the two works, both solemn in tone, is the overarching spirit of sadness at the heart of Nichanian’s Wedding, in stark antithesis to the dignified confidence exuding from Kazazian’s canvas. Here Nichanian’s despair has been supplanted by the optimism of Kazazian’s brush. While Nichanian’s canvas captures and projects the zeitgeist as perceived by an Ottoman Armenian intellectual of Constantinople at the height of the autocratic rule of Abdülhamid II, Kazazian’s signifies the optimism, hope and promise of the early years following the Young Turk Revolution and the Second Constitutional period.235 Consider, for example, the vast, sparsely populated room of Nichanian’s Wedding in contrast to the overcrowded space of the Kazazian canvas. While Nichanian’s canvas has situated the bantoukhd in his or her homeland, it still presents a depopulated Ottoman Armenia, whereas in Kazazian’s painting the bantoukhds are back and thriving. The table of the holy altar acts as a synecdoche for the Armenian Church, in the same way as the distant dome in Nichanian’s Wedding, is presented as pillar of the nation. Yet Nichanian has upheld rigid tradition as the foundation of Armenian identity, while Kazazian is confidently celebrating tradition that has been subjected to progress. Here, the unveiled bride in native attire is presented in profile, facing her groom with confidence and dignity, yet within the frame of tradition and in accordance to the rites of an Armenian Orthodox wedding, hence tradition and a modernizing spirit coexisting on canvas. Kazazian captures both the solemnity of the occasion yet also finds room for happiness, marked on the faces of the presiding priest, the women and men attending and taking part in the ceremony. A rather ambivalent look appears on the faces of the children.

63Nothing signifies the difference between the environments in which the works were produced and consumed than the circumstances of the naming and display of the two works: Arevelk’s Provincial Wedding seen by Pashalian the art critic at the premises of a firm of commissionaires before embarking on its own emigration; meanwhile, Navasart’s Armenian Wedding commands pride of place, apparently within an Ottoman section of an international exhibition, with its proudly Ottoman Armenian subject matter. From a vantage point of 1913, the repressive years of Abdülhamid II seem long over. No image celebrates these newly found constitutional freedoms, and expresses confidence for the future like Kazazian’s Armenian Wedding, from which any preoccupation for bantkhdoutioun is absent.

  • 236 The painting is listed in the National Gallery of Armenia Collection as The Reading of the Letter o (...)
  • 237 Cat. No. 72. As listed by Y. Lalayan, Artsagank, no. 123, 24 Oct. 1897; no. 124, 26 Oct. 1897.
  • 238 Cat. No. 72. As listed by A. Shirvanzadé, Mourdj, no. 10, Oct. 1897, pp. 1439-1455.
  • 239 Hrant, 1931.
  • 240 Ibid.
  • 241 See e.g. Hrant, 1931, pp. 31-33.
  • 242 K. Zohrab, [1888] 1983, pp. 19-27.
  • 243 D. Gamsaragan, [1892] 1978, pp. 180-184.

64Yet bantkhdoutioun from Ottoman Armenia remained a central preoccupation for Nichanian throughout the 1890s, even after, and despite, his eventual departure from Constantinople. One of his most vivid works on the subject, two versions236 of which survive, was The Reading of the Letter (Նամակի Ընթերցումը)237 or The Letter Reading (Նամակ Կարդալը)238, considered by critics as among his best exhibited at the Fifth Caucasian Art Exhibition in Tiflis in 1897 [see figure 16]. The Realist credentials of this narrative painting are instantly apparent, with the image reading like a visual counterpart of Hrant’s Letters.239 In his second Letter, published in Masis in 1888, Hrant writes of “black papers” (սեւ թուղթեր), correspondence that provides an invisible cord connecting distant village and family with a migrant son and often acting as the conduit of “black” news: sickness, accident, death, burial.240 Hrant reproduces the content of such letters in his chronicles, often penned by himself on behalf of, or read to, the illiterate bantoukhd, just like the reader in Nichanian’s painting.241 In his Letter Reading, Nichanian has, with sensitivity, represented an elderly couple in Mshetsi provincial attire sitting at the doorway of their ramshackle home, while a man, perhaps another son, watches over them and listens intently, to the words of a professional letter reader, or literate townsperson, perhaps a teacher, also in native attire. While there is an aura of poverty, the few domestic accoutrements, such as the china, signify the remittances sent home by a bantoukhd son and the parents’ dependence upon them. The head of the family, sitting on a woven grass matt not dissimilar to those covering the ground in Wedding, has his nargileh by his side, while his wife has offered tea in her finest china as gesture of respect and hospitality towards the letter reader. The letter, perhaps also penned by a professional letter-writer on behalf of a bantoukhd son, is the bearer of bad news, reflected on the faces of the three intent listeners. Or, perhaps, the red wax seal on the envelope may indicate that it is an official letter from the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople or the Sourp Prgich (Սուրբ Փրկիչ, Holy Saviour) Armenian Hospital in Yedikule, where the injured or sick migrants would be treated or sent to die, a short distance from Balıklı (Պալըքլը) Cemetery, their bodies buried in unmarked graves in the “poor man’s section” of Küçük Balıklı (Քիւչիւք Պալըքլը). Nichanian’s brush has rendered a quiet sense of despair, hopelessness and fatalistic acceptance of whatever the news. Here, Nichanian’s narrative painting plays with the viewer’s heartstrings, in the manner of Hrant’s emotional chronicles. The imagined has been rendered real by the painter’s brush, much in the manner of Zohrab’s pen in The Widow242, or Dikran Gamsaragan’s (1866-1941) in Haro.243 While the situation in Ottoman Armenia is at the heart of both Letter Reading and the Wedding the former has neither the staged theatricality nor monumentality of the latter. With its Realist directness and immediacy, whether read as naturalistic portrayal of emigration and poverty or as commentary on the desperate situation in post-Hamidian massacre Ottoman Armenia, this painting, although painted in Russian Tiflis, is a more faithful visual adherent of Constantinople Armenian Realism than the Wedding, painted in the spirit of much of that generation’s literary output. Yet both paintings, as all the images presented in this section, are barometers of their own historical moments.

Figure 16 Garabed Nichanian, The Reading of the Letter, 1897 version
Oil on canvas, 69 x 53.5 cm
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Armenia

The Afterlife of Garabed Nichanian’s Provincial Wedding in Moush

  • 244 W.J.T. Mitchell, 1994, pp. 11-34.

65Whilst working on this essay, I quickly came to the realization that my encounter with Nichanian’s Wedding at the Nubar had not been the first, and that I had come across, and bypassed, reproductions of this image at least twice before without awarding them much thought or consideration. Here I would like to briefly think about why this was so, while at the same time considering, in general terms, the afterlife of the image of the painting in its various mediated forms – photograph, print, digital, online – and ensuing changes in meaning, in what W.J.T. Mitchell has termed the “pictorial turn” of our times.244

66From the moment that the paint had dried on Nichanian’s monumental canvas, its image was captured and reproduced in mediated form: as photographic print, engraving and newsprint. These reproductions, made during the artist’s lifetime, never questioned the Wedding’s painterliness, despite the differences of accompanying captions whose content was determined by place, time and environment. Yet, with each and every mediated reproduction, and as the image travelled to a new audience, its ecology was transformed, and its context altered. Hence a reference to the Wedding became a reference to a number of different material objects: painting, photograph, etching, print. Our very own necessary reliance on an 1890 albumen photographic print as inroad into the meaning and determinacy of a late nineteenth century painting, has had to be balanced throughout this essay by the fortunate incidence of contemporary responses to what was after all a very different object: an oil on canvas painting representing an imagined place, Ottoman Armenia, that does no longer exist. Our relationship with the image, already challenged by temporal distance, is further complicated given the heavily politicized vantage point of our post-Armenian Genocide age.

  • 245 R.H. Kévorkian and P.B. Paboudjian, 1992, p. 481.
  • 246Mush [sic]: Armenian Wedding” in R. Hovannisian, 2001, p. 21.

67It is the arena of acknowledgment and denial of genocide that informs, dominates and characterizes recent appropriations of the reproduction of Nichanian’s Wedding. In 1992 the image appeared in Raymond Kévorkian and Paul Paboudjian’s Les Arméniens dans l’Empire ottoman à la veille du génocide245, and was later incorporated into Richard Hovannisian’s Armenian Baghesh/Bitlis and Taron/Mush, published in 2001.246 Both reproductions can be traced back to the source Nubar photograph. What differentiates such recent usage from the early prints in Nichanian’s lifetime is the characteristic preoccupation of our age in ascribing a solely testimonial function to the image, resulting in the subversion of its material nature as art object and the obscuring of the identity of the image as painting. In these textbooks the image is subsumed into a new ecosystem of mainly photographic images bearing witness to a lost world, while their editors are either unaware or unconcerned in acknowledging that the image is a painting. Hence reproductions of Nichanian’s image no longer appear in art history volumes and journals, the proper space for interrogation of artistic merit and analysis of content, meaning and determinacy. Instead it has been appropriated for the history textbook or the houshamadyan, the book of memory, that aims to preserve and recreate an image of Ottoman Armenia, and present what was lost in 1915.

  • 247 J. Tagg, 1988, p. 1.
  • 248 L. Surmelian, 1946, p. 160.

68Of course it is Nichanian’s academic realism, naturalist technique and virtuosity, the impeccably studied and intricately rendered ethnographic detail of its visual vocabulary, that invites its appropriation for documentary and illustrative purposes. These new incarnations of the image utilise and claim realism as the fundamental rationale or force behind their being – a photograph capturing the reality of a Realist painting. In the Barthesian sense, the demand of our post-genocide generation facing official contestation of historical truth, if not to have this lost world back, is to know it existed; in John Tagg’s words, it is to have “the consolation of a truth in the past which cannot be questioned”.247 In the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, viewing this photographic realism again through a Barthesian lens, the unconscious signified must always be the presence of death and a reawakening of a sense of unsupportable loss (famously in Barthes’ case the loss of his mother) while searching for a “just image” and not “just an image” of what is lost in the context of total annihilation: to paraphrase the writer Leon Surmelian, the original is lost – all that remains is a picture.248 Returning to Pashalian’s 1890 text one cannot escape an impression of the preoccupation and intention of both artist and reviewer to capture, present and convey a “just image”. The numerous incarnations of this image stem from various needs to represent or preserve or attempt to capture that which has been lost. Yet perceptions of loss in 1890 differed from those in 1915, and they are different from today’s vantage point.

  • 249 W. Benjamin, 1999, pp. 214-215.
  • 250 Ibid.
  • 251 Ibid., p. 215.

69When reproduced at uniform photographic scale on the page of a book, or online, the image’s painterly attributes and qualities recede making it virtually indistinguishable from the other photographs of its new ecosystem. The quiet erasure of the image’s identity as painting, and its appropriation and projection as historic photographic document, implies claims of authority possible only through the realm of historical testimony249. Yet, as Walter Benjamin has noted, historical testimony rests on authenticity and the presence and unique existence of the original250. Here what has been mechanically reproduced is the image of a painting, not a recording of an actual wedding scene that has taken place in Ottoman Armenia. To claim otherwise is to put the authority of the object into jeopardy251. These reproductions of the image omit to mention that what the viewer is presented with is a photograph of a painting thus denying the image’s core identity: that of oil on canvas executed in the late 1880s in a visual language at once academic, realist, ethnographic and allegorical, a representation of an imagined place. With its painterly materiality concealed or rendered invisible, and no reference made to its artist, the Wedding is buried into a uniform collectivity of photographic images, designed for fast consumption and glancing through, where the viewer is not intended to linger, obscuring the need for careful observation, individual scrutiny and contemplation as the viewing of a painting would invite. In this collective space, Nichanian’s painting as individual image disappears.

Figure 17 Book cover of Arsen Yarman’s Palu - Harput 1878

  • 252 A. Yarman, 2010.
  • 253 The credit page listings include a note in small print that the cover photograph depicts a late nin (...)

70In sharp contrast, a fragment of Nichanian’s Wedding has been isolated and awarded prominent exposure on the cover of Arsen Yarman’s Palu – Harput 1878252 [see figure 17]. The cover designer, Savaş Çekiç, making certain creative interventions informed by aesthetic considerations, has manipulated Nichanian’s image through the addition of red tint at certain selected points but has maintained the image’s painterliness. Yet, the book’s title, appearing above the selected section of Nichanian’s painting misleads users into believing that the image provides an actual ethnographic representation of Palu and Harput dating from the late 1870s.253

Figure 18 Screenshot from Armenian Genocide Museum Website
[accessed 2 July 2015]

71Meanwhile, the image’s recent online presence is further accelerating and perpetuating constantly shifting contexts and ecologies. Varying use, or misuse, has spilled from the textbook page onto the worldwide web. On the website of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Nichanian’s image has been subsumed into an online photographic exhibition of Ottoman Armenian weddings [see figure 18]. The final paragraph of the introductory text Armenian Wedding in the Ottoman Empire frames the setting:

In the XIX century the art of photography became widely popular in the Ottoman Empire also thanks to the efforts of Armenian photographers. In their collections one can encounter photos of wedding ceremonies and newly married couples reflecting popular traditions of Western Armenia and other Armenian-inhabited regions of the Ottoman Empire preserved. This kind of photographs provides [sic] rich information on the Western Armenian wedding rites.254

  • 255 Email correspondence with Project SAVE, Watertown, Massachusetts, 11 Aug. 2015.

72Immediately following the above paragraph, a total of thirty-four photographic images are presented, of which Nichanian’s painting is the sixth. Assimilated into a new family of images, it is once again at odds with the rest in not representing a specific wedding and for being the only non-photographic image. In this new ecology too, meaning generation is manipulated through the distortion of the original materiality of the image. Meanwhile through the pasting of an erroneous caption “Tokat” has substituted Moush as the setting of the image, the accidental result of substandard editing that reproduces by mistake the caption intended for the eleventh image. Through the error the provenance of the photograph is also misrepresented to read “Project SAVE”, when there is no doubt that the image’s source is the AGBU Nubar Library (especially obvious when one compares the torn corner of the image and that the Project SAVE Archive does not hold a copy of Nichanian’s image255). Accessible to a wide audience, such careless misuse undermines expectations of factuality and high standards of academic professionalism that an institution such as the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute ought to safeguard. Perhaps this is a signifier of the zeitgeist of our own historical moment.

*

73This essay constituted, foremost, an exercise in the taking of a single image (and a kindred text), and via the careful assembling of clues and empirical fragments, engaging with the complex historical environment that informed and determined its production, reception, mediation and consumption. Ensuing alterations in meaning in Nichanian’s image, caused by its detachment from the time and place it was made, its transmittance via mechanical reproduction and mediation across time and space, its transformation into an object travelling to its viewers via the processes of publishing (and recently the web), its participation in ever-shifting networks of exchange, and finally its reception at different times and places, and from multiple vantage points, were considered using multiple interpretive avenues, methodological tools and approaches. This was informed by the perusal and close reading of the Ottoman Armenian printed page, which alongside visual material, opened up a revealing space where that which was occasionally missed by the censor, or its gaps and silences, often rang louder than the newsprint.

74Arguing for historical specificity and nuance, the essay discussed texts of art criticism produced at different points of a single decade, the 1880s, and several paintings of similar themes, produced at different historical moments. Via this exercise affinities in tone and timbre, or visual vocabulary and language, were exposed as often masking or camouflaging the very different contents of these images and texts, often obfuscating the circumstances that informed, and the environments that determined, their production. Hence, the essay cautioned against the easy temptation of uncritically reading uniform meanings into texts published at different moments, and ascribing identical resonances to images without considering specificity and nuance.

  • 256 H.A., Arevelk, no. 2617, 14 Oct. 1892.

75At the time of the publication of this essay, the whereabouts of Nichanian’s painting Armenian Wedding in Moush are still unknown. I have been thus far able to track its presence to Chicago in late 1892. A Letter from Chicago: Armenian Artists at an Oriental Exhibition (Նամակ Շիքակոյէ - Հայ Արուեստագէտք Արեւելեան Ցուցահանդէսի Մը Մէջ), published in Arevelk on 14 October confirms that, two years after Pashalian’s encounter with the painting, it was still in the possession of the Costikian Frères, having been awarded pride of place at their annual oriental rug grand sale-exposition in Chicago.256 The author notes:

  • 257 Ibid.

In this Oriental exhibition the most eye-catching [objects] for American women are a silk Persian rug, woven on both sides with various colours and pictures, and an oil painting of Mr G. Nichanian nine feet in length and five feet in width, showing a wedding ceremony. The colours were so harmonious and the picture was executed with such skill that to be honest brings honour to the Armenian artist.257

76Attempts to locate the painting have so far not yielded much. I suspect it very much remains “hidden” in a private collection, probably in the United States, to which art historians have no access. Yet, the very absence of the physical painting and the presence that its image’s various mediated incarnations have maintained across time and space, are very much part of the story and living history of Garabed Nichanian’s Armenian Wedding in Moush. Like many other visual representations of Ottoman Armenians and Ottoman Armenia, Nichanian’s image refuses to fade away.

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Notes

1 Note: The transliteration system in use is Western Armenian except when quoting Eastern Armenian names. Orthography is Classical (Մեսրոպեան) except when quoting Soviet/Republican material. All translations are mine unless otherwise specified.

The author would like to express his gratitude to Rouben Galichian for obtaining the images and permissions from the National Gallery of Armenia, and Megerditch Basma for scanning numerous images for me from the AGBU Nubar Library’s unique collection. Thank you to Gabriel Koureas, Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh, Mary Roberts, Richard Anataramian, Gizem Tongo, David Low and Dzovinar Derderian for reading different versions of this and related texts and/or generously offering invaluable remarks and suggestions on various aspects of the work. All errors are mine alone.

While references to works of art are occasionally encountered, art criticism is not a prolific or systematic genre on the pages of the late nineteenth century Ottoman press.

2 For Pashalian, see M. Ishkhan, 1973, vol. 2, pp. 100-115. For collected works see L. Pashalian, 1943.

3 Taparig (Թափառիկ, Wanderer): one of two pseudonyms used by Pashalian, (the other being Asbed) (Ասպետ, Knight). A. Andonian, Key to Pseudonyms, handwritten note inside binding of 1891 volume of Hayrenik, AGBU Nubar Library, Paris.

4 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

5 The artist signed his name Nichanian, in French (English equivalent Nshanian). Variations: “Charles Nichanian”, “Garabed Charles Nichanian”, etc.

6 AGBU Nubar Library, Familles – Groupes, Box no. 20.

7 Tbilisi, Georgia.

8 A Mshetsi is a native of Moush (Մուշ; Muş in present day Turkey). The suffix –tsi in both Western and Eastern Armenian confirms the provenance of a person i.e. a native of Van is a Vanetsi.

9 Tadron (Թատրոն, Theatre), Dec. 1899, 3rd Year, no. 2, Book 6 (Գիրք Զ); Phototype (Ֆոտոտիպ) engraver: Gnouni; insert between pp. 64-65. The mirroring of the image probably resulted from an error during the transfer process.

10 Daron (Taron) is the ancient Armenian name for the plain, region and ancient principality centred around Moush. See R. Hewsen, 2001a, pp. 41-58; R. Hewsen, 2001b, pp. 107-108, 203-206. The above reference reflects the Mekhitarists’ antiquarian proclivities.

11 Engraver: Simon Nahabedian: Keghouni, 19. Nichanian’s name as the author of the work is absent in both inaugural and first Issues: Dec. 1901.

12 F. Macler, 1917, p. 36.

13 Sh. Khachatryan, 1991, p. 27.

14 For the sake of brevity I shall hereafter refer to the work as Nichanian’s Wedding.

15 J.M. MacKenzie, 1995, pp. 43-70; E. Burke III and D. Prochaska, 2008, pp. 1-71.

16 See E. Zurcher, 1998, pp. 80-94; G. Libaridian, 2004, pp. 51-85; T. Akcam, 2006, pp. 35-46; R. Panossian, 2006, pp. 128-187; M.Ş. Hanioğlu, 2008, pp. 72-149.

17 Also known as the Constantinople or Western Armenian Realist Generation (Պոլսահայ Իրապաշտ Սերունդ); Realism, the dominant intellectual philosophy among this generation of intellectuals is often associated with the 1884 publication of the influential daily Arevelk under the editorship of Arpiarian, and the newspapers Hayrenik and Masis. See J. Etmekjian, 1964, pp. 214-238; M. Ishkhan, 1973, vol. 2, pp. 24-27.

18 From the Greek “πανδοχος”: H. Adjarian, 1979, vol. 4, p. 20.

19 Bantkhdoutioun encapsulates the phenomenon of emigration and also being in the state of a migrant, the bantoukhd. The word encompasses various aspects of the experience of the bantoukhd away from his or her homeland. Loneliness, poverty and yearning for home are constant characteristics ascribed to the bantoukhd in the nineteenth century (and earlier) Armenian imagination, usually with tragic connotations.

20 P. Brooks, 2005, p. 16. For French Realism, see G. Weisberg, 1982, pp. 1-18.

21 For “social consciousness” see R. Bezucha, 1982, pp. 1-13. For “social history of art” see T.J. Clark, 1973, pp. 9-20.

22 For microhistory and uses of clues and fragments, see C. Ginzburg, 2013, pp. 87-113; for biography as method in Ottoman art history see V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 11-44.

23 For “eco-systems of images” see S. Manghani, 2012, pp. 159-187.

24 For “triangulation”, a method that adopts different positions and different methodologies to test the veracity of these positions, and the uses of triangulation in art history see C. Schleif, 2008, 6-18.

25 For “thick description” see C. Geertz, 1973, pp. 3-30.

26 C. Schleif, 2008, p. 6. Schleif refers to this approach as “particular history”, an approach heavily informed by post-1980 feminist scholarship. See C. Schleif, 2008, pp. 17, 44 fn. 22. The usefulness of postcolonial and subaltern theory and practical applications of methodologies, “speaking back” to dominant canons in complex rather than reductive ways, are now established and provide much insight. See E. Said, 1994, pp. 230-408; G.C. Spivak, 1993, pp. 66-111.

27 Pashalian is unclear on whether the work was on public display or privileged access had been granted.

28 At present the location of the painting is unknown. I believe it is held in a private collection in the United States.

29 V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 12, 44-47.

30 There is a vast literature on fin-de-siècle Vienna. See C.E. Schorske, 1981; S. Beller, 2001.

31 See W.M.K. Shaw, 2011, pp. 11-39; M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 1-19, 129-136. Yet the narratives of nation echo even here, revealing the difficulties of unpicking through such established frames of reference.

32 C. Schleif, 2008, pp. 6-18; C. Geertz, 1977, pp. 480-492.

33 This vast and complex topic, not in the least due to the interchangeable use of “Armenia” and “Kurdistan” throughout the nineteenth century, and a blurring of boundaries between these two entities, is beyond the scope of this essay. For a summary of Kurdo-Armenian relations between the 1840s and 1890s, see S. Astourian, 2011, pp. 63-64.

34 A new and growing body of literature is uncomfortable with referring to the Ottoman East as “Eastern Anatolia”. See Y. Tolga Cora, Dz. Derderian and A. Sipahi (eds.), 2016 (forthcoming). I thank Dzovinar Derderian for her informed and useful comments.

35 Ottoman honorific.

36 Costikian Frères, Commissionaires, were based at “Bazar Oriental Han, 29, S”. R. Cervati, 1891, p. 492.

37 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

38 S. Sourenian, 1882, Masis, no. 3318, 22 Oct. 1882.

39 Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

40 Father H.M., Fine Arts (Գեղարուեստք), Masis, no. 3341, 18 Nov. 1882 (signed 15 Nov.).

41 M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 137-138.

42 I have been unable to find a single mention of his name in its publications between 1907-1929.

43 The second is Le repos de l’odalisque, a depiction of a woman in an oriental setting, which is also undated. F. Macler, 1917, p. 37.

44 H. Alyanak, 1924, pp. 284-293. See G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 1, p. 140.

45 O. Avedissian, 1959, p. 284.

46 H. Turabian, 1962, p. 62. Verbatim reproduction of Macler, 1917.

47 Fr A. Bohdjalian, 1989, p. 192.

48 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 667-671.

49 M. Saris 2005, p. 74.

50 D. Dznouni, 1977, p. 368.

51 Sh. Khachatryan, 1991, p. 27.

52 A. Aghasyan, 2009, p. 246, fn. 65. Aghasyan has based much of his extensive footnote on the artist on Macler: The footnote lists some Russian Armenian sources but in another characteristically dismissive short note Aghasyan has failed to consult any Ottoman Armenian sources.

53 Y. Martikyan, 1971, 1975, vol 3, 4.

54 See A. Shirvanzadé, Mourdj, no. 10, pp. 1439-1455; Y. Lalayan, Ardzagank, no. 123, 1897, p. 4; (former is listed in DDznouni, 1977, p. 368; both listed in A. Aghasyan, 2009, p. 246, fn. 65). I thank Vardan Azatyan, and especially Irina Shakhnazaryan, for kindly providing these articles.

55 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 668-671.

56 I was allowed access to Nichanian’s paintings at the National Gallery of Armenia in July 2014.

57 The whereabouts of roughly half is unknown.

58 Macler erroneously notes Guillemet’s first name as “Émile”. F. Macler, 1917, p. 36. Also S. Sinanlar Uslu, 2010, p. 72: Nichanian is not listed as one of Guillemet’s students.

59 See S. Sinanlar Uslu, 2010, pp. 14, 72.

60 S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 2008, p. 69. Nichanian’s name is misspelt as “Nisanciyan”.

61 Arpiarian’s reference suggests that Nichanian studied at the Nubar-Shahnazarian School in Khaskiough (Haskoy), which according to the newspaper Dzaghig (1892, no. 14, p. 163) had turned “Khaskiough” (Haskoy) into the Athens of the Turkish Armenians”. See Sh. Voskanian, 2012, pp. 117-123; G. Libaridian, 2004, p. 57.

62 Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

63 Hostility towards artistic careers appears to cut across all Ottoman communities; for example, family opposition to the artistic career of the Ottoman Greek artist Theodoros Rallis (1852-1909) was only eased by the death of his father; See M.M. Palioura, 2014, p. 14. The dearth of Ottoman Muslim and Jewish artists in this period also signals such social or religious pressure: see W.M.K. Shaw, 2011, p. 57.

64 S. Sourenian,1882, Masis, no. 3318, 22 Oct. 1882.

65 Hraztan 1886, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

66 F. Macler, 1917, pp. 36-37. Morelli was the influential director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples where he taught between 1868 and 1881 (W.A. Rollins, 1895, pp. 35 fn. 1, 44). Called a “warrior artist” of Italy, painting religious, mystical, oriental and exotic themes and imagery, his work has at various times been described as academic, realist, symbolist or nationalist: W.A. Rollins, 1895; I.M.M. Anderton, 1901, pp. 83-91. Nichanian would have studied under Morelli for four years. Interestingly, the Italian artist and teacher at the Fine Art School of Constantinople Leonardo de Mango (1843-1930), had also studied under Morelli and Palizzi in Naples. The two men must have known each other in Constantinople. See A. Thalasso, 1910, pp. 74-79.

67 Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

68 W.A. Rollins, 1895, p. 7. Reform of academic painting was not solely an Italian pre-occupation. See A. Boime, 1971.

69 W.A. Rollins,1895, p. 35.

70 Masis, no. 3345/6, 23 Nov. 1882. Sinanlar Uslu lists Nichanian at a single address for the entire period of 1882 to 1891, as corresponding to today’s 33 Mesrutiyet Caddesi (no source for the information is provided but it does correspond to fashionable Tepebaşı). She also confirms that the original building still stands. S. Sinanlar Uslu, 2010, p. 61.

71 R.C. Cervati, 1891, p. 559.

72 Arevelk, no. 2519, 17 June 1892.

73 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, p. 667.

74 For the full length portrait of socialite Makrouhi Noradoungian see Hraztan, Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886; for the 1887 portrait of Drtad Dadian see G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, p. 669.

75 F. Macler, 1917, pp. 36-37. Macler’s text can only be referring to “son altesse” Ottoman statesman Mehmet Said Pasha (1830-914) also known as Küçük Said Pasha, the eight times Grand Vezir under Abdülhamid II and Mehmet V Reshad.

76 See Nichanian’s 1885 copy of the 1789 portrait of Boghos Andonian, Mekhitarist Collection, San Lazzaro, Venice. See G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, p. 668.

77 Most likely Mgrdich Djivanian (1848-1906).

78 See V. Rowe, 2009, pp. 37, 51.

79 Dussap notes the new calendar date of 30 Jan. 1882 as the closing date for the exhibition.

80 Sharourian’s dating of what he calls the “first Armenian exhibition in Constantinople” as Feb. 1882 is wrong. See Sharourian 1963, p. 171.

81 G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 677-689.

82 Ibid., 2004, vol. 2, pp. 778-784.

83 Ibid., 2004, vol. 2. pp. 762-767.

84 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 360-361.

85 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 362-363.

86 See S. Dussap, Masis, no. 3100, 27 Jan. 1882. See A.S. Sharourian, 1963, p. 171. Sinanlar Uslu’s listing of Dikran Yessayan (1873-1921) as one of the artists is clearly wrong: the listed name T. Yessayan (Թ. Եսայեան) is not the artist Dikran Yessayan (Տիգրան Եսայեան), the confusion perhaps arising from the Eastern Armenian transliteration of both Թ and Տ as “T” (In Western Armenian transliteration of Տ is “D”). In any event, Dikran Yessayan would have been an infant. See S. Sinanlar Uslu, 2010, pp. 72-73.

87 AZKASER, Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882.

88 Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

89 A. Andonian, Key to Pseudonyms, 1891. See fn. 4.

90 Arevelk, no. 873, 29 Nov. 1886.

91 Ibid.

92 For interactions of visual and textual representations see W.J.T. Mitchell, 1994.

93 For mechanical reproduction, see W. Benjamin, 1999; J. Berger, 1972, p. 20; for loss of “aura” due to mechanical reproduction see W. Benjamin, 1999, pp. 211-244.

94 A second photographic print is held at the Archive of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, Venice. The Abbot suggested to me that the Wedding might have been published in a series of ethnographic images depicting aspects of Armenian traditions but at the date of publication I have been unable to confirm this or whether there were other images by Nichanian in such a series [Conversation with Father Yeghia Kilaghbian, Venice, 5 Sept. 2015].

95 The printing of images as postcards for sale was common practice: paintings by Arshag Fetvadjian (1866-1947) and Sarkis Der Azarian (1865-1915), to name but two Ottoman Armenian artists, were widely reproduced in postcard form.

96 The runner, probably a pile rug, has a large central medallion, common among Anatolian rugs. Nichanian’s meticulous emphasis on ethnographic detail, such as dress, jewelry and symbolic items would suggest that he would also have taken care that the rug was in keeping with the “spirit of authenticity” of the overall composition. A Moush provenance is probable: In 1806 Fr. Ghoukas Indjidjian testifies that Armenian “craftsmen (արհեստաւոր) of many types […] and who in the town and surrounding villages weave honourable carpets (գորգ պատուական), kilims (կապերտ) and embroidered footwear (գուլպայ ասուեղէն, socks)” Fr. Gh. Indjidjian, 1806, pp. 187-188. The art historian Manya Ghazarian lists Moush among carpet weaving areas: M. Ghazarian, 1988, ԻԴ, XXIV. The visible motifs point to an area of Armenian-Kurdish cultural interaction, or areas where migration from such regions had occurred: see M. Ghazarian, 1988, pp. 128, 174. The rug’s partial visibility gives the impression of a prayer rug, which while usually associated with Islam, was also common among Ottoman Armenians. For prayer rugs with Armenian inscriptions see, for example, J.M. Keshishian 1994, pp. 100-101.

97 See A. Badrig, 1983.

98 Pashalian appears to have miscounted. Unless there is another figure, visible in the actual painting that has not come through in the photograph, there are only seventeen individuals in the painting.

99 Translated from the Turkish nağara çekmek. I am grateful to Ani Baladian for the explanation.

100 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

101 Veiling practices were tied in with the traditional practice referred to as mounch (մունջ), which literally means quiet or silent denoting the low status of a recently married young bride where among other severe restrictions imposed upon her she was also forbidden to speak. This was also referred to as the “bride swallowing her tongue” and enforced by the mother-in-law. In mostly rural societies this tradition persisted until a rise in her status especially following the birth of a son. See S. Hoogasian Villa and M. Kilbourne Matossian, 1982, pp. 92-95, 179.

102 This is also of provenance from the Moush and Bitlis regions. See A. Badrig, 1983.

103 J. Etmekjian, 1964, p. 215.

104 Title held by the Head of the Armenian Orthodox Church.

105 For brilliant analyses of Khrimian and Ottoman Armenia see: Dz. Derderian 2014, pp. 145-169; and R. Antaramian, 2014.

106 The sobriquet Hayrig, meaning “Little Father”, predated Khrimian’s clerical appointment, a remnant from his teaching years. Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3., col. 2972.

107 Bp. K. Srvantsdiants, 1978, p. 126.

108 See the following issues of Arevelk: 31 Aug., 5 and 25 Sept., 4 and 24 Nov., 8 Dec. 1887, (nos. 1096, 1101, 1117; 1151, 1168, 1180); 25 Jan., 18 March, 1, 13 and 27 April 1888, (nos. 1217, 1263, 1275, 1285, 1320).

109 Fr. Gh. Indjidjian, 1806, vol. 2, pp. 12-51; Fr. A. Devgants, 1985, pp. 43-47; Fr. Y. Devgants, 1991, p. 14; Bp. K. Srvantsdiants, 1978-1982.

110 R.G. Suny, 1993, p. 98.

111 Arabic: stranger, foreigner, away from one’s country, needy; H. Wehr, 1974, p. 668.

112 N. Lafi, 2011, pp. 8-25; F. Riedler, 2011, pp. 160-166.

113 Hayasdantsi means “a native of Hayasdan” (Armenian for Armenia) as opposed to Hay (an Armenian). In Turkish this would be translated as Ermenistanlı as opposed to Ermeni. The suffix –tsi in both Western and Eastern Armenian confirms the provenance of a person. The reference to the local is a crucial marker of identity often lost on non-Armenian speakers. See also G. Libaridian, 2004, pp. 58-63.

114 A native of Moush or its region (Մուշ; Muş in present day Turkey), interchangeably referred to as Darontsi (Տարօնցի) after the ancient Armenian name for the region.

115 A native of Van or its region (Վան), interchangeably referred to as Vasbouragantsi (Վասպուրականցի) after the ancient Armenian name for the region.

116 From the Arabic hamala, to carry; H. Wehr, 1974, pp. 206-207.

117 A Practical Suggestion, Arevelk, no. 1891, 5 May 1890.

118 D. Quataert, 1997, pp. 786-787; C. Clay, 1998, pp. 1-32; S. Bdeian, 1962, pp. 26-30.

119 A comparative study of coverage of this phenomenon within the multilingual press of the Empire would be welcome to demonstrate its respective importance across Ottoman society’s constituent parts.

120 G. Libaridian, 2004, p. 77.

121 M. Khachmerian, 1876. I thank Claire Mouradian for suggesting this work and Levon Avdoyan and Tigran Zargaryan for locating and kindly digitising a copy for my use.

122 M. Khachmerian, 1876, p. 8.

123 Ibid., pp. 9-11.

124 Ibid., pp. 11-15.

125 Ibid., 1876, pp. 15-29.

126 Masis, no. 3919, 28 Nov. 1888; Hrant, 1931, p. 24.

127 Arevelk, no. 45, 25 Feb. 1884; V.K. Davidian, 2014, p. 22.

128 V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 11-54.

129 Ibid., 2014, p. 21.

130 See for example: P. Kechian, Arevelk, no. 2260, 27 July 1891; K. Zohrab, Masis, no. 3992, 22 May 1893, pp. 306-307.

131 See for example: A.A. Sourenian, Dzaghig, 23 Feb. 1891, no. 24, pp. 1-2; Y. Demirdjibashian, Dzaghig, no. 25, 3 July 1893, p. 2.

132 Pazmaveb, Oct. 1867, no. 27, pp. 307-313.

133 Multidisciplinary Armenological journal published since 1843.

134 Arabic: “unmarried man”.

135 Also known as the kavor (քաւոր) or gnkahayr (կնքահայր).

136 Head of the azab: from the Turkish for head (başi).

137 Pazmaveb, Oct. 1867, no. 27, p. 308.

138 Ibid., p. 311.

139 Ibid.

140 See e.g. Bp. K. Srvantsdiants, 1978, vol. 1, pp. 260-273, 518-520, 529-531.

141 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

142 Ibid.

143 See F. Riedler, 2011, pp. 160-166.

144 U. Makdissi, 2002, pp. 768-796; S. Deringil, 2011.

145 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

146 28 July 1890 (New Calendar).

147 The Hnchagian Party was a socialist organization founded by Russian, not Ottoman, Armenians in Geneva in 1887. According to Arpiarian, they established their first active cell in Constantinople in late spring 1890 (A. Kharatyan, 1989, p. 271; M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2947), which was already neutralized by Oct. of that year. Their socialist dogma made them deeply unpopular among Ottoman Armenians, and just like their more overtly nationalist rivals, the Tashnagtsoutioun (founded in Tiflis in 1890 also by Russian Armenians), would remain fringe organizations throughout the 1890s. See R. Panossian 2006, pp. 203-210; R.G. Suny 1993, pp. 24, 74-75; S. Bdeian, 1962, p. 46-47.

148 For a nationalist take of Kumkapi see L. Nalbandian 1967, pp. 118-119. For a different viewpoint see M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2947.

149 See M.Ş. Hanioglu, 2008, pp. 125-126; J. Strauss 2005, p. 238; E. Boyar, 2006, pp. 417-432; A. Kharatyan 1989. See especially Ch. 4 Մամուլը Աբդուլ Համիդի Բռնակալության Ժամանակաշրջանում [The Press During the Autocracy of Abdülhamid II], pp. 221-319.

150 See e.g. Arevelk, 16 July 1890, no. 1949; 21 July 1890, no. 1954; and 28 July 1890, no. 1960.

151 J. Strauss, 2005, p. 230; E. Boyar, 2006, pp. 417-432.

152 A. Kharatyan, 1989, p. 237.

153 Ibid., pp. 237, 241, 267. H. Baronian, 1995, pp. 379, 380.

154 Ibid., pp. 270-271. Both Arpiarian and Pashalian sympathised with the Hnchag party but rejected the public demonstrations and the violence associated with them; in 1898 they formed the liberal Reformed Hnchag Party in Alexandria, Egypt that rejected socialism. R.G. Suny, 1993, p. 84.

155 For a discussion of AZKASER’s review of Srabian’s Beggar see M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 131-133.

156 AZKASER [Ազգասէր], the nom de plume of an undetermined author means “lover of nation”.

157 I was allowed access to this painting in July 2014. The work is not on display and is listed as Poor Armenian Villager (Աղքատ Հայ Գիւղացի) in the National Gallery of Armenia online catalogue. I concur with Roberts’ assumption that it is the work exhibited in the 1882 exhibition.

158 AZKASER, Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882. The reviewer’s entire focus is on the output of artists from the Armenian community who readily admits that, as a non-connoisseur of the arts, his primary interest lay in the ascertainment of the position held by “Armenian art” at the exhibition. Interest primarily or solely in Armenian artists, while widespread in the Ottoman Armenian press, follows no systematic rule. A comparative study of the coverage of artists in the multilingual Ottoman press would be very useful to elucidate on the wider picture.

159 These are not isolated cases – for example, Arpiarian’s 1884 discussion of another Srabian painting, Manoug Aghpar, is laden with similar sentiment. See Arevelk, no. 45, 25 Feb. 1884; V.K. Davidian, 2014, p. 22.

160 The first painting discussed was that of two Jewish scrap sellers, “fine specimen of the Hebrew type” (հնածախներ).

161 In Roberts’ text the word has been inadequately translated to “wanderings”, as a result of which the phenomenon of bantkhdoutioun does not feature in her analysis.

162 AZKASER Painting Exhibition (Նկարահանդէս), Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882. Roberts only reproduces part of the text, translated by Vigen Galstyan, and which she notes was obtained from a reprint of the original Masis article in the Tiflis newspaper Ardzagank, no. 22, 18 July 1882. I have yet to identify the author behind the pen name. Also important to note is that the capitalisation of the letters of the signature merely conformed to considerations of the house style of the newspaper (where all contributors’ names were capitalised), and therefore did not signify a sentimental outburst.

163 Arevelk, no. 659, 15 March 1886. The Report enumerates the activities of the committee including its 233 meetings between 1880 and 1884, the types of aid (material and financial), and its accomplishments.

164 Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857, 2889.

165 Ibid., 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857.

166 Yedi Kilise.

167 Yanal Köyü, Soradir. Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857.

168 Other areas such as Biledjik (Bileçik), and Nicomedia were also helped, yet the emphasis was on Van and its surrounding regions.

169 Arch. M. Ormanian, 1912, vol. 3, col. 2857.

170 While providing a well-framed analysis of the text and image, Roberts offers an incomplete picture, having overlooked to consider any humanitarian and economic dimension to AZKASER’s review, and especially, to mention the 1881 famine. Ascribing a solely “political” interpretation to the reviewer is complicated by what is meant by “political”: in the absence of Armenian political or revolutionary organizations in existence in 1882 this cannot be a reference to such groups. I also disagree with Roberts’ reading of a “political” message in the reviewer’s reference to “foreigners being saddened”. Her interpretation may have arisen due to a different translation of the word երեւոյթ, which in Roberts has been mistranslated to “state of affairs” whereas it is clearly intended as “sight”. See M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 131-133.

171 For example, writing in 1870, Frederick Millingen notes that “In Constantinople, and throughout Turkey, the epithet of Van Ermenisi, or Armenian from Van, is equivalent to poor, or a clumsy fellow”. F. Millingen, 1870, p. 261.

172 Arevelk, no. 473, 31 July 1885.

173 S. Astourian, 2011, p. 58.

174 C. Clay, 1998, pp. 1, 3.

175 R.G. Suny, 1993, p. 65.

176 R. Mirak, 1983, p. 18.

177 From R. Mirak, 1983, p. 18.

178 In Roberts this has been erroneously translated as PATRIOT, while an understanding that this was the author’s signature is not made explicit, hence projecting unwarranted connotations onto the text. M. Roberts, 2015, p. 133.

179 According to this view Constantinople was also the centre of the nation. From this vantage point, subscribed by the liberal elites of Constantinople and Smyrna, Ottoman Armenia was a more or less distant, often abstract idea. See G. Libaridian, 2004, pp. 51-58, R. Panossian, 2006, p. 175.

180 A confessional community; see A. Sanjian, 1965, pp. 31-45; B. Braude, 1982, pp. 69-87.

181 G. Libaridian, 2004, p. 51.

182 G. Libaridian 2004, p. 52.

183 Panossian posits its best institutional incarnation as the Armenian National Constitution (Ազգային Սահմանադրութիւն, Nizamname-i Ermeniyan) of 1863. See R. Panossian, 2006, p. 175.

184 This started to become the dominant view from Ottoman Armenia, where the “fatherland” and hence territoriality was at the centre of the nation; after 1888 this was espoused by political parties founded by Russian Armenians: see G. Libaridian, 2004; R. Panossian, 2006.

185 Panossian interprets the different dynamics of this process and divides them, in an attempt at simplification, into two major linguistic and cultural and three general ideological positions. R. Panossian, 2006, p. 131.

186 R. Panossian, 2006, p. 175.

187 Dz. Derderian, 2014, p. 169.

188 There are two known versions, one of which is dated 1889, the other is unknown.

189 R. Shishmanian, 1958, p. 243.

190 See for example: H. Srents, The Beggar Mother (Մուրացիկ Մայրը), Arevelk, no. 2664, 16 Dec. 1892; or Parsegh Ekserdjian, The Beggar (Մուրացիկը), Arevelk, no. 2674, 26 Dec. 1892. See also E. Boyar and K. Fleet, 2010, pp. 136-139.

191 Translated in Roberts’ as “depredations”, which dilutes the full effect of the word.

192 See S. Astourian, 2011.

193 The Committee for Inspection and Controls (Encümen-i teftiş ve muayene) whose duties also included the scrutiny of pictures (resim, levha): J. Strauss, 2005, p. 238.

194 M. Roberts, 2015, p. 134.

195 V.K. Davidian, 2014, p. 24-47.

196 Tadron, 1899, book 6.

197 For descriptions of the town of Moush see for example Fr. Gh. Indjidjian, 1806, vol. 2, pp. 187-188; Fr. Y. Devgants, 1872-1873, p. 14; Fr. A. Devgants, 1878, p. 43. For a British traveller’s description of Moush see H.F.B. Lynch, 1901, vol. 2, pp. 167-173. The affinity between Lynch’s eye-witness description of Moush and those of the numerous Armenian visitors to the town throughout the nineteenth century is striking.

198 Ն. (N.), Arevelk, no. 70, 26 March 1884.

199 Ibid.

200 R. Hewsen, 2001, p. 45.

201 Fr. Gh. Indjidjian 1806, p. 180.

202 R. Hewsen, 2001, p. 45.

203 Ibid., p. 48.

204 Popularly referred to as Մշոյ Սուլթան Սուրբ Կարապետ [St. Garabed Sultan of Moush], it was dedicated to St. John the Baptist (Garabed: “the precursor”). Charles is a common mistranslation for Garabed among Armenians. I thank Levon Avdoyan for clarifying this.

205 R. Hewsen, 2001, pp. 43-45.

206 S. Bdeian, 1962, pp. 27-28, 30.

207 This was also true for Russian Armenian artists. Shirvanzadé complains of a glut of Mshetsis at the 1897 Fifth Caucasian Exhibition: A. Shirvanzadé, 1897, vol. 10, p. 211. A comparison of Russian Armenian and Ottoman Armenian artists’ treatment of Mshetsis is the subject for a future essay.

208 Vahé, Arevelk, no. 1877, 19 April 1890.

209 M. Roberts, 2015, p. 131.

210 An Ottoman corruption of “alla franca”, a style, where western forms were copied for the use of residential space, furnishings, customs and dress: F.M. Göçek, 1996, p. 41. M.Ş. Hanioğlu, 2010, p. 100.

211 A discussion of Ottoman photography is beyond the scope of this essay.

212 See for example S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 1989 and 2008. Their thematic treatment of subjects painted by Orientalist artists does not include Ottoman weddings. The only reference made is to an engraving by Antoine-Ignace Melling A Turkish Wedding Ceremony from the series of engravings from 1819: Ibid., 2008, p. 33.

213 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl

214 S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 2002, p. 64. For a discussion of the two works see A. Sakissian, 1921, pp. 423-426. The painting’s identical size with Party of Armenians Playing Cards (1720-1737), also at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, may hint that the two works were probably a pair.

215 O. Nefedova, 2009, p. 105.

216 See S. Germaner and Z. İnankur, 2008, p. 22. From the series under the title Recueil de cent estampes représentant différentes nations du Levant tirées sur les tableaux peints d’après nature en 1707 et 1708 par l’ordre de M. de Ferriol, ambassadeur du Roi à la Porte: Paris, 1712-1713; reprinted and translated into German, English, Spanish and Italian.

217 Ibid., f. 86.

218 Ibid., f. 87.

219 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

220 Oil on canvas, 92x162 cm; when shown at the Fourth Venice Biennale in 1901 it was part of the artist’s collection. P. Lecaldano, 1959, Contents.

221 Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56 (Jairo’s daughter is about to die) and Matthew 9:18-(where the daughter is dead). I thank Haig Utidjian for his advice with the citation.

222 Morelli’s rendering of the tale is strikingly different, more allegorical, than those of other artists, such as Paolo Veronese (1546) or Ilya Repin (1871).

223 See for example H. Gasparyan, 2007.

224 A. Sakiz (Sakissian), 1936, pp. 86-88. Sakiz cites his source as his father, Hovhanness Paşa Sakizyan (1830-1912), a high-ranking Ottoman civil servant and Minister of the Treasury under Abdulhamid II, a student at the Mouradian School between 1846 and 1852, where Fanoli was a teacher. Sakiz Paşa also had artistic inclinations: see G. Kürkman, 2004, vol. 2, p. 730. For the role of the Mekhitarists in the recovery and construction of the Armenian past see R.G. Suny, 1993, pp. 56-57; Fr. D. Yardemian, 1987, pp. 5-29.

225 Arevelk, no. 676, 4 April 1886.

226 Ibid.

227 I thank Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh for helping me clarify some of the ideas around the central figure of the bride.

228 Taparig, Arevelk, no. 1960, 28 July 1890.

229 Not much is known about Yervant Kazazian. He is remembered through the reproduction of two paintings in Navasart, 1914. He is also listed as participant in the 1913 Munich Secession as “Yervant Kasasian” with one work Portratstudie (Cat. No. 158); Cat. 1913, p. 20. He may have participated in an exhibition of German art in Constantinople between 1916 and 1918 with a still life; O. Avedissian, 1959, p. 403. Kürkman, gives his date of death as 1915 (no source provided), and bases his entry on Avedissian, not Bohdjalian as suggested.

230 Navasart, 1914, p. 271. The other being Panos Terlemezian’s (1865-1941) well known In the Temple (National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan).

231 Despite Navasart’s claim, there is some confusion whether this painting by an Ottoman Armenian artist was exhibited in the Ottoman or German Section of the Exhibition. It was listed in the German language Catalogue as Trauung. I thank Gizem Tongo for pointing this out to me.

232 Navasart, 1914, p. 271.

233 Navasart 1914, insert between pp. 248 and 249.

234 We are unable to comment on its colour palette or scale.

235 See B. Der Matossian, 2014.

236 The painting is listed in the National Gallery of Armenia Collection as The Reading of the Letter of the Migrant Son Received from Abroad (Պանդխտութիւնից Ստացված Որդու Նամակի Ընթերցումը). The smaller, 1898 version is reproduced in G. Kürkman as The Letter (2004, vol. 2, p. 670).

237 Cat. No. 72. As listed by Y. Lalayan, Artsagank, no. 123, 24 Oct. 1897; no. 124, 26 Oct. 1897.

238 Cat. No. 72. As listed by A. Shirvanzadé, Mourdj, no. 10, Oct. 1897, pp. 1439-1455.

239 Hrant, 1931.

240 Ibid.

241 See e.g. Hrant, 1931, pp. 31-33.

242 K. Zohrab, [1888] 1983, pp. 19-27.

243 D. Gamsaragan, [1892] 1978, pp. 180-184.

244 W.J.T. Mitchell, 1994, pp. 11-34.

245 R.H. Kévorkian and P.B. Paboudjian, 1992, p. 481.

246Mush [sic]: Armenian Wedding” in R. Hovannisian, 2001, p. 21.

247 J. Tagg, 1988, p. 1.

248 L. Surmelian, 1946, p. 160.

249 W. Benjamin, 1999, pp. 214-215.

250 Ibid.

251 Ibid., p. 215.

252 A. Yarman, 2010.

253 The credit page listings include a note in small print that the cover photograph depicts a late nineteenth century Armenian wedding in the region of Moush. The provenance is given as B.Nu confirming it was scanned from R.H. Kévorkian and P.B. Paboudjian, 1992.

254 “Armenian Wedding in the Ottoman Empire”, http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_14.php. Accessed on 2 July 2015 and 16 Oct. 2015.

255 Email correspondence with Project SAVE, Watertown, Massachusetts, 11 Aug. 2015.

256 H.A., Arevelk, no. 2617, 14 Oct. 1892.

257 Ibid.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1 Garabed Nichanian, Provincial Armenian Wedding in Moush, 1886/1890Albumen print, 22 x 28.7 cm,(approximate size of painting 150 x 200 cm, present location unknown)Photograph courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 720k
Légende Figure 2 Garabed Nichanian, Self Portrait, 1894Oil on canvas, 28.5 x 18.2 cmImage courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Légende Figure 3 Announcements of various moves of Garabed Nichanian’s atelierMasis, 23 Nov. 1882, no. 3345/6 (above), and Arevelk, 17 June, no. 2519 (below)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 512k
Légende Figure 4 Garabed Nichanian, Bride’s entouragein Armenian Wedding in Moush (detail)AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Légende Figure 5 Garabed Nichanian, Groom and best manin Armenian Wedding in Moush (detail)AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Légende Figure 6 Allegorical personification of “Armenia” on title page of Mardiros Khachmerian’s Life of Armenian Bantoukhds [Կեանք Հայ Պանդխտաց], Constantinople, 1876
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 400k
Légende Figure 7 Final paragraph discussing Srabian’s Armenian Beggar from VanAZKASER, Painting Exhibition (Նկարահանդէս), Masis, no. 3197, 28 May 1882
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Légende Figure 8 Bedros Srabian, Armenian Beggar from Van, 1882Oil on canvas, 94 x 71 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Légende Figure 9 Simon Hagopian, Beggar Woman from Van, 1889Oil on canvas, 55 x 46 cm, private collection, Istanbul[Photographed by Vazken Khatchig Davidian]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Légende Figure 10 Gnouni, Engraving of Garabed Nichanian’s Wedding of the Mshetsis
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Légende Figure 11 Jean Baptiste Vanmour, Armenian Wedding, circa 1720-1737Oil on canvas, 44.5 x 58.5 cm, image courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 300k
Légende Figure 12 Jean Baptiste Vanmour, Arménien qui va à l’église pour se marier, accompagné du compère qui porte son sabre, 1714Copperplate engraving, private collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 564k
Légende Figure 13 Jean Baptiste Vanmour,Fille arménienne que l’on conduit à l’église pour la marier, 1714Copperplate engraving, private collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Légende Figure 14 Domenico Morelli, La Figlia di JairoThe Studio, XXIV, no. 104, Nov. 1901, p. 89Size of original painting: 92 x 162 cm, collection of the author
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Légende Figure 15 Yervant Kazazian, Armenian Wedding, circa 1913, in Navasart, 1914AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Légende Figure 16 Garabed Nichanian, The Reading of the Letter, 1897 versionOil on canvas, 69 x 53.5 cmImage courtesy of the National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende Figure 17 Book cover of Arsen Yarman’s Palu - Harput 1878
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Légende Figure 18 Screenshot from Armenian Genocide Museum Website[accessed 2 July 2015]
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/907/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 513k
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Vazken Khatchig Davidian, « Imagining Ottoman Armenia: Realism and Allegory in Garabed Nichanian’s Provincial Wedding in Moush and Late Ottoman Art Criticism », Études arméniennes contemporaines, 6 | 2015, 155-225.

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Vazken Khatchig Davidian, « Imagining Ottoman Armenia: Realism and Allegory in Garabed Nichanian’s Provincial Wedding in Moush and Late Ottoman Art Criticism », Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 6 | 2015, mis en ligne le 10 mars 2016, consulté le 16 octobre 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eac/907 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/eac.907

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Vazken Khatchig Davidian

Birkbeck College, University of London

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