Friday, August 28, 2009

Hagia Sophia Mini Series!

The original Hagia Sophia painting, "Night Birds over Hagia Sophia"

After the "Paintings, Prints and Pizza!" Exhibition at the FPPP, I was approached to do another painting of the Hagia Sophia by a gentleman who had heard a legend that the seagulls flying over Hagia Sophia were the souls of drowned concubines tossed into the Bosphorus when they had fallen out of favour with the Sultan.

Planning Sketch for "Evening Call to Prayer, Hagia Sophia"( I forgot the moon!)

Surely I could understand that the birds were too happy to be drowned concubines in the painting on the wall? He was right- far too joyful! So my commission was to paint another Sophia with more serious looking 'female' birds.

"Evening Call to Prayer, Hagia Sophia"

Taking the pigeons I painted in the Sultanahmet Bird Feeders painting as a source, I decided that I wanted to paint a picture that looked like the call to prayer had begun and the birds were fleeing the sound. As one admirer had once remarked, the wings formed crescent moons- quite fitting for a call to prayer painting, so I thought they would be a good fit for the next painting of the Hagia Sophia. to make them look 'more serious', I painted them with beaks closed and without gangly-looking seagull legs.

But I decided to take it a step further and began researching the outfits of the Ottoman concubines, and decided in the whimsical spirit of Rie Munoz, I would paint the concubines flying with the seagulls. Why not? I was a lot of fun to paint this one, though technically much harder than the first because of the details of the costume.
"Concubines over Hagia Sophia"

Both paintings were very much liked by the gentleman, and after a few cups of tea in the cafe and much scrutiny, he went home with the ladies. I'll miss them, but happy they have finally found a good home!

"Concubines over Hagia Sophia" detail.


  1. beautifully whimsical! :) (life is a bit like that isn't it)

  2. Your faithful admirer approves. Well done!

  3. I really wouldn't be able to decide which one of these I'd like better. The story of the concubines grabs me, but I like the idea of the the birds flying up during the call to prayer. Make prints!

  4. Hmmm, it just hit me what has been niggling away at the back of my mind. The birds are suitably serious, but the concubines are smiling! Shouldn't they sport a more mournful expression? I always think of Tuptim from the "King and I" when I think of the plight of unhappy harem girls.

  5. My take on it is that the birds have to look like they have the possibility of turning into one of the concubines when one isn't looking. It's they have spindly legs and open beaks they might not be taken very seriously. And for the concubines, well, they are free! Who wouldn't want to escape a crappy home life with someone who'd drown you? The ladies are finally happy and can frolick above the Hagia Sophia with their best girlfriends. I'd say it's a kind of celebration.

  6. I'd say that you are right. If the phoenix can burn fiercely then rise from the ashes to flaunt its resplendant plumage, drowned concubines can morph into seagulls then rise from the Bosphorus to complete their liberation as spirits in the sky - with diamonds.