Hagia Sophia. Finding treasure in my own family. Here’s why this painting is so precious to me.

One evening while I was visiting my family in South Africa some years ago, my sister pulled four boxes out of the back of the cupboard. They had been stored there since my grandmother’s death more than a decade before. In amongst all the old photographs of family members, some of which we hadn’t ever seen before, was a little watercolour painting on a card. The image of the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul is executed in vibrant colours. One of the things that surprised me is the clarity of the colours – considering that the painting is over eighty years old. This is probably in part, because it hasn’t been exposed to light.

Inside the card is a message to my grandmother (Stella) and mother (Rosemary) sent from Karabuk, Turkiye in 1937. I know my grandfather worked as an expat engineer on some projects in Turkey for a while when my mother was very young. We believe that this is card was sent back home to the family in England before they moved out to join him.

I have no idea who the artist was. At first I wondered it was painted by my grandfather – he was known to paint some very good watercolours. But the signature isn’t the same as the one on his painting that hung in my parents’ diningroom.  My grandparents owned a couple of paintings they bought while they were stationed in Turkey.  I can only guess that this little gem was painted by a local artist.

About Hagia Sophia. Finding treasure in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia. Finding treasure

Years later, I travelled to Istanbul and made sure to visit Hagia Sophia. This beautiful building has a fascinating history. Originally built in 537, it has been a basilica, a mosque and then a museum (which is it function now).

John Sargent Singer famously painted its interior in 1891.  But valuable as his paintings are, I am more excited by the little watercolour of Hagia Sophia. Finding it was such a joy.   This small watercolour was painted by an artist who will never know how much their work means to our little clan. I hope some of my paintings will be as special to someone’s family.

(Republished from the original post)