Just as modern government representatives often retain their own photographer, officials in those days had their own artist, especially on journeys outside Europe where it would be hard to find an artist who could paint in the Western style. Most painters who came to Istanbul in this capacity only stayed for a short period. Not Vanmour, however. He remained in the Turkish capital for the rest of his life, until 1737. The real reason can only be guessed at: all his principal customers – diplomats and travellers – only stayed in Istanbul temporarily. One result was that he was constantly acquiring new patrons, and so a minor master from Flanders based in Istanbul managed to become one of the best known artists of the first half of the 18th century.
Jean Baptiste Vanmour
(1671 – 1737)
Jean Baptiste Vanmour was 28 in 1699, when he arrived in Istanbul in the entourage of the French ambassdor Baron Charles de Ferriol d’Argental. It was a journey that changed the course of his life.