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Maker(s):Church, Frederic Edwin
Culture:American (1826-1900)
Title:Al Ayn (The Fountain)
Date Made:1882
Materials:oil on canvas
Measurements:Frame: 29 1/4 in x 41 1/2 in x 2 5/8 in; 74.3 cm x 105.4 cm x 6.7 cm; Stretcher: 23 15/16 in x 36 1/4 in; 60.8 cm x 92.1 cm
Accession Number:  AC 1972.109
Credit Line:Gift of Herbert W. Plimpton: The Hollis W. Plimpton (Class of 1915) Memorial Collection
Museum Collection:  Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Constantinople (Istanbul)

Label Text:
A member of the second generation of Hudson River School painters and Thomas Cole’s lone student, Church often awed his audiences with the topographical accuracy of his exotic landscape imagery from his extensive travels, which encompassed South America, Jamaica, Europe, and the Holy Land. In painting Al Ayn, he created a largely imagined view of Middle Eastern scenery in which intricate details are subsumed by a romantic haze. The title refers to the source of the water that drains into an ancient sarcophagus on the right-hand side of the composition.

The castle in the left middle ground appears to be Rumeli Hisari (literally “Fortress on the Land of the Romans”), located in Istanbul’s Sariyer district on a hill on the European side of the Bosphorus. Mehmed II commissioned the fortress in 1452 to establish firm control of the waterway. He stationed 400 soldiers at Rumeli Hisari to prevent the passage of ships during the siege of Constantinople.

In the painting’s distant background, Church inserts another widely known landmark: the Yeni Valide Camii mosque. Safiye Sultan, mother of Mehmed III, commissioned the complex in 1597; its designer was Ottoman architect Mimar Davud Aga, pupil of Sinan. Architect Mustafa Aga took over construction after Mimar Davud Aga’s death in 1598 and added to the initial design a sultan’s kiosk, a tomb, a school, and a market. The mosque survives today in its original location on the water’s edge adjacent to Istanbul’s Galata Bridge.

Al Ayn was once in the possession of Mary Jane Sexton Morgan (d. 1885), a voracious collector of late nineteenth-century European and American art showing “Oriental” subjects.

Written by Jennifer Morales, Class of 2013

architecture; landscapes

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