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Osman Hamdi [Edhem, Osman Hamdi; Hamdi Bey] locked

(b Istanbul, Dec 30, 1842; d Eskihisar, Gebze, nr Istanbul, Feb 24, 1910).

Osman Hamdi [Edhem, Osman Hamdi; Hamdi Bey] locked

(b Istanbul, Dec 30, 1842; d Eskihisar, Gebze, nr Istanbul, Feb 24, 1910).
  • S. J. Vernoit

Updated in this version

updated bibliography, 27 October 2011

Turkish painter, museum director and archaeologist. In 1857 he was sent to Paris, where he stayed for 11 years, training as a painter under Gustave Boulanger and Jean-Léon Gérôme. On returning to Turkey he served in various official positions, including two years in Baghdad as chargé d’affaires, while at the same time continuing to paint. In 1873 he worked on a catalogue of costumes of the Ottoman empire, with photographic illustrations, for the Weltausstellung in Vienna. In 1881 he was appointed director of the Archaeological Museum at the Çinili Köşk, Topkapı Palace, in Istanbul. He persuaded Sultan Abdülhamid II (reg 1876–1909) to issue an order against the traffic in antiquities, which was put into effect in 1883, and he began to direct excavations within the Ottoman empire. As a result he brought together Classical and Islamic objects for the museum in Istanbul, including the Sarcophagus of Alexander, unearthed in Sidon in 1887. He also founded and was the first director of the Fine Arts Academy in Istanbul, which opened in 1883. As a painter he initiated figurative narrative and portrait painting in Turkey, being inspired in particular by the Orientalism of some European painters. His paintings were Realist in style with a great concern for detail, and Osman Hamdi often used photographs for accuracy. Examples include the Tortoise Breeder (1906; Ankara, Mus. F.A.), the Guardian of the Tombs (1908; Istanbul, Mimar Sinan U., Mus. Ptg & Sculp.) and The Lady with Mimozas (1906; Istanbul, Mus. F.A.). His work was admired in Paris, and he regularly sent paintings to the Salon des Artistes Français. He was also a corresponding member of the Royal Academy in London and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. His younger brother Halil Edhem Eldem, who was also educated in Europe, was appointed director of the Imperial Ottoman Museum after Hamdi’s death and was a scholar of repute.


  • with M. de Launay: Les Costumes populaires de la Turquie en 1873 (Istanbul, 1873) [photographer: Pascal Sébah]
  • with T. Reinach: Une Nécropole royale à Sidon (Paris, 1892)


  • A. Thalasso: L’Art ottoman: Les Peintres de Turquie (Paris, 1910), pp. 8, 11, 13–6, 18–27, 39, 57
  • A. M. Mansel: ‘Osman Hamdi Bey’, Anatolia, 4 (1959), pp. 189–93
  • M. Cezar: Sanatta Batı’ya Açılış ve Osman Hamdi [Western trends in art and Osman Hamdi] (Istanbul, 1971)
  • G. Renda and others: A History of Turkish Painting (Geneva, Seattle and London, 1988), pp. 88, 90, 92–4, 104, 113, 115, 117, 134–5, 138, 143, 155, 160, 236
  • ‘Osman Hamdi Bey’, Turkish Rev., 7/34 (1993), pp. 63–8
  • Z. Celik: ‘Colonialism, Orientalism, and the Canon’, Art Bulletin, 78 (1996), pp. 202–5
  • W. M. K. Shaw: ‘The Paintings of Osman Hamdi and the Subversion of Orientalist Vision’, Aptullah Kuran için yazılar: Essays in Honour of Aptullah Kuran, ed. C. Kafescioğlu and L. Thys-Şenocak Shaw (Istanbul, 1999), pp. 423–34
  • W. M. K. Shaw: ‘Islamic Arts in the Ottoman Imperial Museum, 1889–1923’, Ars Orientalis, 30 (2000), pp. 55–68
  • B. Tut: Çizgi ve eller: Osman Hamdi Bey’den günümüze Türk resminde desen/Lines and Hands: Drawings in Turkish Painting from Osman Hamdi Bey to Present (Istanbul, 2001)
  • K. Radt: ‘Carl Humann und Osman Hamdi Bey–zwei Gründerväter der Archäologie in der Türkei’, Istanbuler Mitteilungen [des archäologischen Instituts], 53 (2003), pp. 491–507
  • W. M. K. Shaw: Possessors and Possessed: Museums, Archaeology, and the Visualization of History in the Late Ottoman Empire (Berkeley, 2003)

See also

Islamic art, §viii, 11(ii): Oil painting: Turkey

Islamic art, §xii, 2: Museums: Islamic lands