Osman Hamdi Bey’s “Serenity,” an oil canvas work dating from 1904, was expected to fetch a record price for a work of Turkish art when it went under the hammer yesterday in Istanbul. However, due to the insufficient bidding prices, the painting could not find any buyer. The bidding opened from $9 million and the first bidding prices were ranged around 100,000 to 150,000 Turkish Liras.
“Serenity,” which is 110 by 70 cm, was expected to go for between $9 million and 10 million at Antik A.Ş.’s auction at the Swissotel The Bosphorus.The legendary Ottoman artist’s “The Turtle Trainer” fetched $3.9 million in 2004, setting a world record for a piece of Turkish art sold at an auction. In 2008, “A Lady of Constantinople” at Sotheby’s auction sold for $6.9 million to set a new record.
Yesterday’s auction was to feature 200 lots – many of which are the finest to appear on the market in a long time, according to art sources.
“Serenity” is from the collection of politician, journalist, statesman and former Foreign Minister İsmail Cem.
Strong provenance and the perfect condition make the painting one of the five most important works of Osman Hamdi Bey, according to art officials. The canvas will be on sale for the first time in 100 years; the work has not been seen since 1957, when it was shown at an exhibition of Osman Hamdi Bey at the Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum. The painting has been seen in museums like the Paris Musée d’Orsay, the İstanbul State Museum, the Pera Museum, the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, the Yapi Kredi Art Museum, the Pennsylvania University Museum and has been owned by powerful Turkish families.
“It is an exceptional work of art, and it has a very important place in the artist’s life; we know that the two ladies are his wife and daughter in their Eskihisar mansion. This puts the painting artistically and emotionally at an astonishing level,” according to one art appraiser. “Owning a painting from Osman Hamdi Bey’s ‘Lady’ series is more than owning a work of art, it is like buying the history of Turkish art history.”
Osman Hamdi Bey is also the founder of the first fine arts museum in Turkey and has only around 100 known works. “A painting of Osman Hamdi Bey on such dimensions could be kept by powerful families who gave importance to art more than money,” said the art source.
“The sale is giving buyers an opportunity to own museum-quality masterpieces,” according to Turgay Artam, the auctioneer of the sale. “Osman Hamdi Bey’s ‘Serenity’ is an extraordinary painting which has never been in the market before. Not just a monumental canvas from the artist’s most popular ‘ladies’ series, it has a significant place between the master characteristics of the artists and his personal life. Such a painting is rarely seen outside of a museum.”
Artam has invited the public to view the display before the sale.
An important part of the auction will also cover examples of Turkish calligraphy. Calligraphists like Hafız Osman, Mahmud Celaleddin, Kazasker Mustafa İzzet, Mehmed Aziz Rufai, Hasan Rıza, Kamil Akdik, Hafız Vahdeti, Yahya Hilmi, Sami Efendi, and Hamid Aytaç’s works were also set to go on sale yesterday.