From Istanbul to Philadelphia: the Journey of At the Mosque Door
For almost a century, Osman Hamdi’s At the Mosque Door had only been known to art historians through a black-and-white photograph of the painting taken immediately after its completion. The original was forgotten until 2007, when it was recognized in the archives of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia. This exciting event has incited a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the Penn Museum’s acquisition of the painting. Through original correspondence and photographs, it is now possible to reconstruct the events that ultimately brought Osman Hamdi’s At the Mosque Door to Philadelphia.
Osman Hamdi created two paintings—At the Mosque Door and Women in a Türbe (Mausoleum)—with the intention to show them at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He did not dispatch these paintings directly to the United States, however, but rather first sent them to France for an exhibition at the Palais de l’Industrie in 1892. While the paintings were on display in Paris, the French antiquities authorities seized this opportunity to enter into the good graces of Hamdi, who directly controlled the export of any archaeological material excavated in Ottoman lands. As an expression of gratitude for his ceding to the Louvre important finds from a Sumerian site in Iraq, the Director of National Museums authorized the purchase of Women in a Türbe. Upon this arrangement, At the Mosque Door continued its journey to Chicago alone.View the entire essay with illustrations (PDF) >