Refugees (or Fugitives) from Constantinople. Henry Wallis. A Royal Academy submission of 1876. Known only through this woodcut engraving in Illustrated London News of 28 August 1875, p. 201. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Mike Hickox

This work makes a triptych together with two other Wallis RA submissions of the mid-1870s - Found at Naxos and A Despatch from Trezibond. Wallis was exploring a common theme in all three: the war between the Turks and the Byzantine Empire in the fifteenth century and the potential role of the Venetian Republic as the saviour of Western Civilisation. The Tetrarch's statue, placed prominently in the composition above, was a symbol of imperial power: another "refugee," it had been removed by the Venetians from Constantinople two centuries earlier. The implication would have been that the power to resist the Turks had now been transferred from Byzantium to the Venetian Republic. Like Byron and Shelley whom he admired, Wallis was a radical. While the imperialist Disraeli favoured the Turks in their struggle to suppress their rebellious subjects in Greece and the Balkans, the liberal Gladstone took the opposite side. There can be little doubt that Wallis would have sided with Gladstone. The painting has a complexity that has not been fully recognised.

Related Material

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Bibliography

"Fugitives from Constantinople. by H. Wallis." Illustrated London News 67 (28 August 1875): 201. Hathi Trust web version of a copy at the University of California. Web. 12 October 2021.


Created 12 October 2021