Osman Hamdi Bey - Museologist
Osman Hamdi Bey was the eldest son of Grand Vizier (Ottoman Prime Minister) İbrahim Edhem Paşa, who was a valuable technical and political personality educated in both Ottoman and Western cultures. Osman Hamdi was born in Istanbul in 1842 and educated there. He attracted attention with his paintings when he was sixteen. He traveled to Vienna with his father and studied the museums there. In 1860, he was sent to Paris to study law. He also had the opportunity to work at the workshops of the great masters of the Paris Fine Arts Academy and had a good education in painting.
On his return from Paris in 1869, he was appointed as Director of Foreign Affairs for Baghdad Province. He became interested in history and archeology there and participated in excavations. He came back to Istanbul in 1871 and was assigned Assistant Director of Palace Protocol. He performed various high level duties of the State before being assigned Director of the Empire Museum (Müze-i Humayun). With this appointment, a new and productive period began both in his life and in Turkish museology.
He founded the School of Fine Arts (Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi-i Ali) in 1883 and became its director. He issued and put into action the Law of "Conservation of Antiquities" (Asar-ı Akita Nizamnamesi) in 1884. This law brought regulations for the security of archeological excavations and finds and forbade export of antiques. This was a great step in terms of Turkish museology and protection of antiquities.
Osman Hamdi Bey led excavations at Nemrut Mountain (Mount Nimrod), Lagina Temple and Saida. In 1881, he laid the foundations of today's Istanbul Archeology Museum, which was the first Turkish museum building, in order to exhibit the works and sarcophagi, including the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great which he found in the Sayda excavations, which are accepted as masterpieces in the world of archeology. The museum was opened in 1891.
He continued painting while dealing with museum activities. He is a successful representative of Turkish painting with his figured compositions painted with Oriental understanding. His pictures are part of various collections and are on display in national and international museums. He gave importance to details while reflecting the colorful scenes of Ottoman life. Even tiny details were painted in their true colors. His pictures, such as "The Reading Man", "Arms Trader", "Turtle Trainer" and "Women in the Yard of Şehzadebaşı Mosque", reflect the life and details of Ottoman Istanbul.
Osman Hamdi Bey, who died in 1910, made the greatest contribution to Turkish
art history as the founder of the School of Fine Arts and Istanbul Archeology
Museum in addition to as a famous painter.