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Der Islam

Journal of the History and Culture of the Middle East

Ed. by Heidemann, Stefan / Hagen, Gottfried / Kaplony, Andreas / Matthee, Rudi

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2017: 0.04

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.100

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Volume 95, Issue 2


The “German Fountain” in Istanbul: Object of Transfer in the Age of Historicism and Diplomacy

Lorenz Korn
Published Online: 2018-11-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/islam-2018-0034


The “German Fountain” on the Hippodrome in Istanbul, commissioned by the German Emperor Wilhelm II, has been perceived (and sometimes ridiculed) as a marginal by-product of imperialism and historicism. However, the history of its origins, construction and inauguration highlights significant aspects of German-Ottoman relations in the Hamidian period. The fountain is an example of the role that art and architecture played in these relations. The history of its planning indicates in which way the urban history of Istanbul was perceived and how a new monument was inserted, under the particular conditions of patronage by a foreign monarch. For the present article, German archival sources have been utilized to reconstruct the events and to interpret underlying attitudes. These sources elucidate the process of veritable trans-cultural negotiations, in which numerous partners with differing agendas participated. Besides, an art historical glance at the design of the fountain permits conclusions on choices that were made by the patron and the architect, significant for the understanding of the monument by its contemporaries. The particular conditions of the Ottoman Empire struggling for survival vis à vis European powers, and German foreign politics, become visible in the location and style of the fountain as well as in the protocol of its inauguration.

Keywords: Istanbul; Architecture; Public Monument; Historicism; Imperialism

Article note: This article is dedicated to Klaus Kreiser. Honoring his merits in building the fields of Turkish Studies and Oriental Studies in general is, in my view, best done in writing on this particular topic from the fields of German-Turkish relations and fin-de-siècle objects. I am gratefully indebted to several colleagues and friends. Zeynep Aygen, Professor of Heritage Conservation at the Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul and Salih Şahin, head of the manuscripts department of the Beyazıt State Library in Istanbul, fueled my interest in the German Fountain. The collection of documents from the Ottoman State Archives (Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri; Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives) that Salih Şahin has brought together was an incentive to search for archival material on the German side. I extend my warmest thanks to those academic hosts who invited me to lecture about the fountain between March 2016 and July 2017, in particular Eva Maria Troelenberg (Florence), and to numerous discussants who reacted to my preliminary results that I presented; I would like to thank Christoph Neumann for drawing my attention to some questions related to the location and orientation of the fountain. It is a pleasure to thank the archival institutions of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, the Auswärtiges Amt and the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin as well as the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Istanbul for granting access to the relevant documents. For Ottoman names and terms, the modern Turkish spelling is used.

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Published Online: 2018-11-09

Published in Print: 2018-11-08

Citation Information: Der Islam, Volume 95, Issue 2, Pages 549–595, ISSN (Online) 1613-0928, ISSN (Print) 0021-1818, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/islam-2018-0034.

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