Fausto Zonaro, who was born and trained as an artist in Italy, is one of the foreign painters who worked in the Ottoman Empire. He came to Istanbul in 1891 where he was noticed by Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909), who admired Zonaro’s painting The Ertuğrul Cavalry Regiment. He worked as one of the sultan’s court painters between 1896-1909, but after the proclamation of the Second Constitution in 1908 had to leave the city like others who had worked for Abdülhamid II.
He was an important figure in the development of western painting in the Ottoman Empire because aside from being a court painter, he also gave painting lessons to members of elite Ottoman families and organized exhibitions at his studio in Beyoğlu.
Many foreign painters came to the Ottoman Empire, especially Constantinople, in the nineteenth century. Some of these artists were invited by the court or introduced to the court by others. They painted portraits of the sultans and the royal family, war scenes and major historical events for the court, while also producing works for other clients. Some foreign artists arrived on their own initiative, opened workshops and painted works on the theme of Constantinople, its scenery and inhabitants, for a varied clientele. Famous European artists who were curious about the East also came to Constantinople for brief periods of time.