The local seller had no idea that the 7 x 11in (18 x 28cm) oil on panel of ladies and ferrymen on a jetty on offer at West Sussex saleroom Denhams (20% buyer’s premium) on April 22 might be by a notable artist when she brought it into the Horsham firm.
However, it was signed to the lower right F Zonaro and it was quickly established that it might be by the Italian painter Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929).
Zonaro moved to Istanbul in the early 1890s and became one of the chief exponents of European-styled realism in the Ottoman Empire. In 1896 he was appointed court artist by Sultan Aldulhamit II, a position he held until he returned to Italy 13 years later.
He produced plenty of scenes depicting everyday life in Istanbul and this picture depicted a familiar location showing the banks of the Bosphorus at Uskudar on the Asian side of the city.
Photographs of the picture were sent to Erol Makzume, a Turkish art historian who has co-written two books on Zonaro, who authenticated the work but noted it had been poorly restored (it also had a small area of missing paint above one of the figures and the panel had slightly warped).
It was identified as a smaller version of an oil on canvas titled The Boat although, compared to the larger picture, it was less defined in terms of detail and it lacked a few compositional elements including the presence of three dogs on the jetty and a face covering to the figure with the parasol.
Nevertheless it was deemed an attractive proposition against a £4000-6000 estimate and, after bringing interest from several Turkish phone bidders, it sold at £16,500 to a buyer in Istanbul.