Sabancı Museum offers a different glance at Osman Hamdi Bey’s paintings
The processes of the project - which was carried out as part of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s global “Art Conservation Project,” and which constitutes the most comprehensive conservation and scientific research on Osman Hamdi Bey’s paintings in Turkey - went on display at Atlı Köşk on June 5 at an exhibition titled “Osman Hamdi Bey Beyond Vision.”
The project includes a comparison of the prominent late Ottoman painter’s “Flowers in a Vase,” “The Hodja Reading the Quran,” “Kokona Despina,” “Portrait of Naile Hanım,” “The Petitioner” and “The Mosque” in which every detail - from the artistic technique to the restoration work these works underwent - was determined through scientific methods.
The exhibition brings the artist’s creative processes to light while also constituting a detailed narration of conservation in art and a roadmap for future projects.
The pioneering project in Turkey proves that scientific methods can provide opportunities for studying the techniques of artists, as well as giving information about methods for dating works of art. It also provides guidance for research on a comparative study of techniques and materials of paintings claimed to be by Osman Hamdi Bey.
The first step of the project, which entailed a comprehensive perspective on the scientific analyses of the works, was the analysis of previous restoration work, the use of paints with heavy metal and other elements on bottom layers not visible to the naked eye with X-ray imaging methods.
This process revealed Osman Hamdi Bey’s charcoal sketches prior to painting, his painting techniques, and the way his works evolved. This was followed by chemical analyses to determine the structure and color of the materials he used, the layers and texture of paint.
The organic structure of the canvas material of the six paintings was analyzed through Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and the data was classified through the primary component analysis (PCA) method to determine their characteristics.
This project showed that the artist’s paintings dating back to late 19th and early 20th centuries had suffered from cracks and fallen bits in paint as well as yellowing of the varnishes. They were cleaned and restored as part of the same project.
“The purpose of the project, which is the most comprehensive initiative undertaken in Turkey regarding conservation of the works of this prominent name in Turkish art history, is to provide the worlds of science and art a closer glance to the artist and his creative processes,” said the SSM Director Nazan Ölçer.
“Through Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s contribution, we had the opportunity to obtain additional information about these valuable works in our collection and contribute to Turkish art history studies and conservation efforts,” she added.