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Khalil Bey

Page history last edited by Thomas Kutzli 1 month, 3 weeks ago


Contemporary photograph of Khalil Bey


Khalil Bey (1831, Egypt - 1879) was an Ottoman diplomat and art collector, whose collection was known by Théophile Gautier as "the first ever to be formed by a child of Islam"


Khalil Bey was born in Egypt after his father emigrated there to serve as a captain in the army of Mehmet Ali, making a huge fortune in the process. Khalil was thus educated partly at an Egyptian school in Paris, before taking up his first official posting in 1855 as Commissioner to the International Exhibition in Paris that year. He entered the Ottoman diplomatic service in 1856, serving as one of the plenipotentiaries negotiating the end to the Crimean War then as ambassador to Athens and Saint Petersburg, on which posts he began collecting. He grew to dislike Saint Petersburg's cold and so retired in a private capacity to Paris in the mid 1860s, renting expensive rooms from the English collector Lord Hertford on Rue Taitbout and becoming a noted gambler, art collector and patron. He was introduced to Gustave Courbet by Sainte-Beuve, and commissioned Les Dormeuses (The Sleepers) and L'Origine du monde from him. He also acquired Le Bain turc (The Turkish Bath) from Ingres and other works by Eugène Delacroix, Troyon, Daubigny, Meissonier, Corot, Rousseau and Gerome. In January 1868 he sold off his collection just before leaving to become Ottoman ambassador to Vienna, thus getting out of Paris only 2 years before the Franco-Prussian War. After that posting he moved to Constantinople and married the daughter of one of the prominent reformers of the time. In 1877 he returned to Paris as Ottoman ambassador for a few months.


  • Francis Haskell, 'A Turk and His Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Paris', Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, Patronage (1982), pp. 40-47

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