Giovanni Brindesi, born in Italy in 1826, is known for his Orientalist work. He worked in Constantinople from the 1850s to the 1870s, where he produced a luminous painting that depicted the city’s everyday life, exploiting above all the extreme versatility and speed of execution of watercolour and tempera on paper.
An Italian painter in Constantinople
There is very little biographical information about the artist, but it is certain that in 1856 he published two albums with lithographs of views of Istanbul with the publisher Lemercier, entitled Toures de Constantinople and Souvenir de Constantinople, which are still kept in the museum of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and in the library of Istanbul University.
Giovanni Brindesi’s vision of the Ottoman city is decidedly picturesque and rich in detail, emphasising the preciousness of the fabrics, the sumptuousness of the colours and the architectural monumentality of the city under the rule of Sultan Abdul Mecit.
Scenes of Turkish life and costume appear in the album Les Anciens Costumes. Musée des costumes turcs de Constantinople, in which he proposes different Constantinopolitan types, in a kind of range of subjects that could be encountered in the bustling streets of the city in the second half of the 19th century: maidens in costume, janissaries, soldiers, merchants, pashas and grand viziers.
The album Souvenir de Constantinople, on the other hand, is not just an encyclopaedia of Ottoman costumes, but a vivid account of everyday life on the Bosphorus Strait, between St Sophia and the Tower of Galata, the harems, the crowded markets and the late antique monuments. What emerges from Giovanni Brindesi’s lithographs and watercolours is not so much spontaneity of execution as love of detail and the careful study of diffuse luminosity combined with precise, clean drawing.