The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul: Preliminary Report on the Year's Work, 1931-1932

The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul: Preliminary Report on the Year's Work, 1931-1932

The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul: Preliminary Report on the Year's Work, 1931-1932

The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul: Preliminary Report on the Year's Work, 1931-1932

Excerpt

The order of the Turkish Government enabling the Byzantine Institute of America to lay bare and conserve the mosaics of St. Sophia was issued in June 1931 at Ankara by the Council of Ministers. His Excellency Esat Bey, at that time Minister of Public Instruction; Halil Ethem Bey, sometime Director of the National Museum and now Deputy from Istanbul in the Grand National Assembly at Ankara; Dr. Hamit Zubeir Bey, Director of Museums; and Aziz Bey, Director of the National Museum of Istanbul, from the first and continuously gave their advice, encouragement, and enthusiastic support. It is impossible to express due acknowledgement of the unfailing courtesy of the officers of the Turkish Government.

The study of the mosaics, on which members of the Institute had already been for some time engaged, was actively pursued from December 1931 in the Narthex of the Mosque. For this purpose a steel scaffold thirteen metres in height, moving on swivelled wheels travelling on a steel track, was built in Istanbul. This scaffold, which has two sliding floors, reaches the vault of the Narthex, and is constructed so as to avoid in its movement the transverse ribs. Both its floors are enclosed in canvas and are lighted and heated with electricity from the Mosque (Pl. I).

Between December 1931 and April 1932, before the mosaics were touched, the entire mosaic area of the vaults and walls of the Narthex was submitted to careful study and was photographed. On the 6th of April Signori Gregorini and Benvenuti, two master mosaicists proposed by Signor Engineer Marangoni of Venice, arrived in Istanbul. Simultaneously with their arrival came Engineer Marangoni himself, who remained for a week and confirmed the technical procedure of the cleaning.

Work was then begun on the East wall of the Narthex in the first South- West bay (A on the Plan). From this date the mosaics in the Narthex were the object of continuous and systematic treatment. Throughout the work Macit Bey represented the Museum of Antiquities. On the 18th of August the Venetian technicians returned to Italy upon the termination of their engagement. Further photography, measurement of the Narthex decorations, and other activities relevant to the enterprise and its records were continued until the 6th of September, when the scaffold was dismantled and work in the Mosque was suspended until the following spring.

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