View of Constantinople
c 1879. Watercolor and graphite on cream laid paper, laid down to archival board, 6 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches (170 x 374 mm). Initialed in watercolor in the lower left recto. Minor (pea-sized) area of scattered light 'tics' of discoloration (does not appear to be foxing) in the the right half of the sky, directly above the central sailboat. Some light surface soiling in the right quadrant of the sheet, most visible where the land meets the sky, but generally unobtrusive. Color is lively and bright. A refreshing and joyful image of sailing on the Bosporus featuring a keelboat with a very full spinnaker. Framed beautifully in a gilt and cinnabar wood frame.
Tristam Ellis, known as Tristie to his family, boarded the steamship Alexandria in 1879 and traveled from England to the Syrian coast, overland to Diyarbakır in southeast Turkey, and then by raft down the Tigris River to Mosul and Baghdad. This beautiful painting is likely from that ambitious expedition. Upon his return to London, Ellis sold 90 works from the trip almost immediately. Subsequently, he penned a two-volume illustrated account of the journey, "On a Raft, and Through the Desert," which was published in 1881 by Field & Tuer, London. Although painted before publication, this painting evokes William Butler Yeat's 1928 poem Sailing to Byzantium (Constantinople), a metaphor for a spiritual journey, and the convergence of immortality, art, and the human spirit.
Item number: 551