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Maltese Artist's 1875 Grand Tour Watercolour Sketchbook To Sell For 500,000 Pounds
Naomi Matthews from Bonham’s holds the remarkable sketchbook containing over 80 stunning watercolours by Count Amadeo Preziosi. Photo: EFE/Andy Rain.

LONDON. A remarkable sketchbook containing over 80 stunning watercolours by Count Amadeo Preziosi, who left Malta to spend his life in Constantinople (Istanbul), is one of the highlights of Bonhams next Travel and Exploration Sale on 16 September in New Bond Street.

The sketchbook taken on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1875 by the watercolour artist, Count Amadeo Preziosi (1816-1882), self-titled ‘Souvenir de mon dernier voyage’ is estimated to sell for £320,000-500,000.

The pictures cover many glorious images of Constantinople, Paris and London alongside landscapes and seascapes along the way and studies of colourful locals in national costume. The artist’s appreciation of female beauty is also much in evidence.

Preziosi was born into a wealthy and aristocratic Maltese family, but his father was strongly opposed to his artistic inclinations and so he left the island for Constantinople, where he soon established his reputation as a painter of contemporary Constantinople life. In the days before colour photography, this album documents every stop on what must have been a momentous journey, beginning and ending in Constantinople, but also taking in Romania, Hungary, Germany, England, France, Italy and Malta.

Giles Peppiatt, Head of Travel and Topographical Pictures at Bonhams comments: “ To find one picture by Count Preziosi would be a pleasure, but to find no fewer than 81 of his works in his own personal sketchbook is astounding. The book provides a brilliant insight into a lost world, one that our forbears inhabited just 135 years ago, but a world utterly transformed. Yet one can page through this remarkable document and marvel at images that architecturally are still intact. This is an object that is more than the sum of its parts because of it is one man’s overview of Europe in works of delicate beauty.”

Having studied his art in France Prezsiosi was aware that European painters were flocking to the Gateway to the East, as Istanbul was known. He set out in 1842, travelling to Italy and then on to Istanbul, intending to stay for two years, but he fell in love with the city and its people and hardly noted the passing years.

Istanbul returned Preziosi’s affection, and he was welcomed everywhere and despite his father’s entreaties Amadeo Preziosi refused to return to Malta, where the other members of his family followed ‘respectable’ careers as doctors, merchants and lawyers. He remained loyal to the passionate loves of his life: Istanbul and painting.

As well as Italian, Preziosi spoke French, Greek, English and Turkish. He married an Istanbul Greek woman and the couple had four children. Following a hunting accident in which he was wounded by his own gun, he died and was buried in the Catholic cemetery in Yeşilköy, where his grave still stands today.

This Bonhams sale also includes travel books and manuscripts, atlases and globes, photographs, artifacts and paintings relating to travel and historical voyages and expeditions of famous navigators and explorers from the 17th to the 20th centuries. In addition to paintings relating to early travel, the auction will include topographical pictures by itinerant artists in the Americas, Africa, Australasia and the Pacific and the Far East together with East India Company Trade paintings.

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