The German Imperial Fountain in Istanbul

with Lorenz Korn

hosted by Emily Neumeier and Sotirios Dimitriadis

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The fountain standing in the Hippodrome (At Meydanı) in Istanbul, located just a few steps away from some of Turkey’s most famous tourist attractions like Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, doesn’t attract much notice these days. But wrapped up in this monument, gifted to the people of the city by the German Emperor Wilhelm II, is a story that sheds some light on the bilateral relations between the Ottoman Empire and their European neighbors before WWI. What is the role that the arts play in this diplomatic relationship? Under what conditions could such an object be inserted in the topography of Istanbul’s historic monuments? In this episode, Emily Neumeier and Sotirios Dimitriadis speak with Lorenz Korn about his research on the imperial fountain, tracing the process of its design, construction and reception.

This episode is part of an ongoing series entitled "The Visual Past."

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Lorenz Korn is an art historian and archaeologist of the Islamic world. Since 2003, he has served as full professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of Bamberg. His research focuses on the architecture of the central Islamic lands between the 10th and 16th centuries, Islamic minor arts such as metalwork, and Arabic epigraphy. His recent publications include articles and books on the architecture of the mosque and on artistic exchange between Europe and the Islamic World.
Emily Neumeier is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History at University of Pennsylvania. Her research concerns the art and architecture of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. She is currently preparing a thesis on the architectural patronage of provincial notables in Ottoman Greece and Albania. Emily is also editor of stambouline, a site where travel and the Ottoman world meet. 
Sotirios Dimitriadis is a historian of the late Ottoman Empire, whose research focuses on issues of urban and social history. He completed his doctoral dissertation in the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London, and is currently teaching at the International Hellenic University.


Episode No. 246
Release Date: 8 July 2016
Recording Location: University of Bamberg
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Sound excerpts: Istanbul'dan Ayva Gelir Nar Gelir - Azize Tozem and Sari RecepHarmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi
Special thanks to Muhtelif for allowing us to use "Bint El Shalabiya" in the outro music
Images and bibliography courtesy of Lorenz Korn


The Imperial Fountain or “Kaiserbrunnen” as it stands today, Istanbul. Photo: Lorenz Korn, 2015.
Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Empress at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, Postcard, 1898. From Carmel (1999).
One of the proposed designs for the fountain by Max Spitta. Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin, Inv. 16886
Telegram letter conveying the donation of a public fountain to the population of Istanbul by Wilhelm II, 22 October 1898. Berlin, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, R3732.
Detail of the gold mosaic and imperial insignia in the dome of the Kaiserbrunnen. Photo: Lorenz Korn, 2014.
Mosaic decoration in the vaults of Hagia Sophia. From W. Salzenberg, Alt-christliche Baudenkmäler von Constantinopel (Berlin 1854).
The inauguration ceremony for the fountain. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Istanbul Photo Archive, Neg.Nr.9631.
Historic postcard featuring the fountain in the Hippodrome (At Meydanı). Image  in the Public Domain, US Library of Congress.

Baytar, İlona (Ed.). İki Dost Hükümdar. Sultan II. Abdülhamid – Kaiser II. Wilhelm. Zwei befreundete Herrscher, Exhibition catalog. Istanbul: Milli Saraylar, 2009. [An exhibition catalogue with articles around Ottoman-German relations  and the personal relationship between Abdülhamid and Wilhelm; includes an article on the fountain by Nurcan Yazıcı]

Carmel, Alex [Karmel, Aleks] and Ejal Jakob Eisler. Der Kaiser reist ins Heilige Land. Die Palästinareise Wilhelms II. 1898. Eine illustrierte Dokumentation. Stuttgart et al.: Kohlhammer, 1999. [Photographs, postcards, and other material visualizing the imperial visit to Constantinople and the Holy Land]

Çelik, Zeynep. The Remaking of Istanbul. Portrait of an Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century. 2nd ed. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1993.

Christensen, Peter. Architecture, Expertise, and the German Construction of the Ottoman Railway Network. PhD Dissertation, Harvard University, 2014.

_____. "Expertise and the Economies of Knowledge of Architectural Practice in the Islamic World since 1800." International Journal of Islamic Architecture 4, no. 2 (2015): 243-253.

_____. "Transmutations: Architecture and the German Construction of the Ottoman Railway Network." Lecture at Harvard University, November 20, 2014.

Krüger, Jürgen. Rom und Jerusalem. Kirchenbauvorstellungen der Hohenzollern im 19. Jahrhundert (Acta humaniora). Berlin 1995. [A study of revivalist styles in Prussian church architecture of the 19th century, relevant for the sources of the fountain’s design]


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