By Martina Tanga

Realist painter Fausto Zonaro was born on this day in 1854. Originally from Masi, a municipality in the Province of Padua, then part of the Austrian Empire, Zonaro became Italian in 1866, when Italy won the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia in the Third Italian War of Independence. A born traveler, Zonaro is best known for his captivating and vivid pictures of life and history of the Ottoman Empire.Inspired by Edmondo de Amicis’ orientalist travel book Constantinopoli, Zonaro first traveled to Istanbul in 1891. There he worked hard to gain access to aristocratic circles, and in 1896 he was nominated as the court painter to the ruling sultan Abdul Hamid II. The Sultan commissioned Zonaro to paint a series depicting events in the life of the 15th century Ottoman sultan Mehmed II. Painting both historic scenes and contemporary life, Zonaro was inspired to render the Ashura Dayprocessions – in order to commemorate the day on which Hussein Ibn Ali was martyred in the battle of Karbal – carried out by the Shia Muslims on the tenth day of Muharram at Tatbir. The Shia community not only mourned the martyr, but also showed respect and adoration by flagellating themselves with swords, symbol of war. The artist depicted this intense ritual with strong lighting and a dramatic composition. Zonaro remained in Istanbul until 1909, when he returned to Italy following the coup d’état that overthrew his patron abdulhamid II. He spent the last years of his life quietly, settled in Sanremo, painting the Italian Riviera.

Self-portrait Constantinople, 1904, Oil on canvas

In sedan, the daughter of the English Ambassador Lord Corrie, 1896, Oil on canvas, Pera Museum, Istanbul

Mehmed II and the Ottoman Army approaching Constantinople, transporting a giant bombard, 1903, Oil on canvas

10th of Muharram, 1909, Oil on canvas

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