Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

The Scutari Monument in Istanbul: The Introduction of Victorian Monumental Language to Ottoman Society

Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

The Scutari Monument in Istanbul: The Introduction of Victorian Monumental Language to Ottoman Society

Article excerpt

From the eighteenth century onwards Ottoman architecture gradually gained a more westernized expression. The Ottoman Reform Edict of 1856, Islahat Fermani, exerted an impact in this respect. The edict, proclaimed at the end of the Crimean War (1853-56), brought, among many other reforms, substantial freedoms in terms of the construction rights of non-Muslim subjects living in the Ottoman Empire. The reforms, conceived primarily for the benefit of Christian subjects, were widely utilized by western countries, including Britain, an ally of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War.

Britain, which had influenced the passage of the edict, immediately took advantage of the proclamation of the Islahat and erected the Scutari Monument (also known as the Crimean War Monument or the Queen Victoria Monument) in the Haydarpasa British Cemetery in Istanbul. The Scutari Monument was the first monumental structure to be realized by Britain in Ottoman territory.1 The principal aim of this article is to introduce the Scutari Monument in the context of the political frameworks that brought about its erection. It also considers the monument within the oeuvre of its sculptor, Baron Carlo Marochetti, and explores its wider significance in the emergence of Ottoman monumental practices in public spaces, especially the erection of figural statuary.

The Crimean War began with Russia's invasion of Wallachia and Moldovia in 1853, both of which were within the territory of the Ottoman Empire at that time. The tension between Russia and the Ottoman Empire originated with the capture of the Crimea by Russia in 1783. For the first time, an Ottoman land with a predominantly Muslim population was incorporated by a Christian country.2 Russia's plans to divide the Ottoman Empire and establish a Slavic Union led France and Britain to enter the war in 1854 in order to protect their economic interests in the region. Britain, France and later the Kingdom of Sardinia supported the integrity of the Ottoman Empire in order to prevent Russia from marching west and south. For Britain, the main purpose of this support was to preserve the route leading to the Mediterranean Sea and to protect India from a Russian threat. In 1855 the war came to an end with the defeat of Russia on the Crimean Peninsula and the invasion by Russia of the city of Kars on the Caucasian front. In the same year, the death of Tsar Nicholas I obliged his successor, Alexander II, to sue for peace. The war officially ended on 30 March 1856 with the Treaty of Paris which was signed by Britain, France, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. As a result, the integrity of the Ottoman Empire was secured.3

The British ambassador, Stratford Canning (1786-1880), had a direct influence on the politics of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid, acting as an advisor to the sultan and his reformist ministers.4 Canning believed that only liberal reforms could free the Ottoman Empire from Russia's domination through interventions in the Ottoman orthodox population. Sir Adolphus Slade, a British admiral and later Admiral of the Fleet in the Ottoman Imperial Navy, described Stratford Canning as 'a diplomat whose one single statement is equal to a law in Istanbul'.5 The Ottoman Reform Edict was shaped significantly by Canning's influence and its passing in 1856 marked a prominent milestone in the ambassador's career. In the same year, Sultan Abdulmecid was admitted to the Order of the Garter by Canning in the name of Queen Victoria.6

With its eleventh, thirteenth and fourteenth articles, the Reform Edict eliminated the bureaucratic obstacles that prevented non-Muslims from constructing and repairing their own religious buildings, schools, hospitals and cemeteries in the Ottoman Empire.7 According to Sir Adolphus Slade, until the end of the Crimean War Turks had not witnessed any religious ceremony practised by British people or seen any object used in a religious context, and this would have included monumental religious architecture. …

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