Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Painting: The Blue Mosque... Again!

Either I conquer Istanbul or Istanbul conquers me.
Fatih Sultan Mehmet

Seagulls over The Blue Mosque, 2011

I've thought about doing larger paintings for the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque ever since leaving Istanbul and now I have! The best part of doing larger paintings is that I can get more detail in without struggling with a teeny tiny paintbrush. Okay, I still struggle with the teeny tiny paintbrush but I can get more finicky with the details and there is a lot less swearing going on. (Appropriate to have blue air around the Blue Mosque, I suppose!)

The Blue Mosque from the entrance to Topkapi Palace.

When my sister and I lived in Istanbul, we lived behind the Blue Mosque. From our rooftop we could see the minarets peeking above the buildings above us on the hill. The call to prayer competed with all the other calls to prayers in our neighbourhood. I always wished I'd taken the time to zip up to our roof at sunset and record the calls to prayers going off all at slightly different times. It was a hell of a lot of noise that scared the feathers off the seagulls but I loved it!

Zoe warning me not to pick up a paintbrush again without taking her for a walk first.

When Obama came to visit, we spent a lot of time hanging around the fenced off areas around the Blue Mosque in preparation for his visit. It paid off though, we caught a glimpse of the president but more importantly, I got some great photos of the Blue Mosque from a buffet restaurant on the roof of a hotel. (And we weren't even eating there, but none of the staff cared. They even offered us tuliped shaped glasses of tea while we waited. Gosh, I love the Turks!)

Obama day! Turks on the next roof waiting to catch a glimpse of the president. In the top of the right minaret you can see one ofthe snipers in black.

I'm proud to say that with our stealth, Rene and I were the first two people in the Blue Mosque after Obama left. We were there to watch the snipers come out of the minarets, dust each other off, take a bunch of photos with their cell phone cameras of the interior and whizz out the door in their riot gear, laughing and smiling that nothing had gone down and the job was now done.

Seagull framed by the Blue mosque- on the ferry on our way to Iznik.

I won't bog you down with too much history but The Blue Mosque is one of only two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets. At the time the Blue Mosque was built, the only other structure to have six minarets was the Kaaba in Mecca. It was taken as a challenge to Mecca, so the Turkish sultan sent a crew down to Mecca to build a seventh minaret to appease the Meccan Rulers. There is one other mosque in Turkey that has six minarets and it's in Adana. I haven't seen it... yet!

"One of the most notable features of the Blue Mosque is visible from far away: its six minarets. This is very unique, as most mosques have four, two, or just one minaret. According to one account, the Sultan directed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets, which was misunderstood as six (alti) minarets.

Whatever the origins of the unique feature, the six minarets caused quite a scandal, as the Haram Mosque in Mecca (the holiest in the world) also had six minarets. In the end, the sultan solved the problem by sending his architect to Mecca to add a seventh minaret." (Stolen from this Sacred Destinations-Click here.)

Here you can see the sky pattern.

I find it very hard to get even skies with watercolour (It goes against the very nature of watercolour! So I painted this shell pattern in black over prussian blue- it's very subtle but ties the painting together tightly. It took me a long time to do this, and most people who saw the painting didn't notice it without me pointing it out. But I think sometimes its little details such as this that make a painting zing!

Blue Mosque sunset from the Asian side.

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