The man and his origins

Armenian origins

One of the peculiarities of the Armenian people was their capability of maintaining their religious and cultural identity, despite all the vicissitudes that occurred throughout their lives. Although whishing to seek national independence, in the 6th decade of the 19th century the Armenian communities, divided and scattered along the Caucasus and Anatolia regions, were still under the Russian or Ottoman Empires rule.

Calouste Gulbenkian was born in 1869, in the heart of a prosperous Armenian community of the Ottoman capital. Although choosing to establish his home in two of the most cosmopolitan Western cities, throughout his lifetime Calouste Gulbenkian remained attached to his Eastern origins and was particularly loyal to his Armenian lineage. It cannot be said that the section of his art collection that is devoted to Armenian art is extensive. However, as far as his personal library is concerned, Calouste Gulbenkian managed to assemble a significant collection of works as a token of his affection towards his native culture. Among this collection, which covers diverse subjects like Armenian Art, Architecture, Fauna, Flora and Religion, one might find works such as L’église arménienne: son histoire, sa doctrine, son régime, sa liturgie, sa littérature, son présent, Le rôle des arméniens dans la civilisation Mondiale, A treatise on the geology of Armenie and Documents d’art arméniens. In addition to the inherent patriotic nature of these books, some are of further interest, as they contain dedications by the authors or translators who offered them to Calouste Gulbenkian. As an example, the dedication of the book Poésie et matière: essai, written by Astour Navarian, the French poet of Armenian origin, mentions the philanthropic deeds of Calouste Gulbenkian in regard to the fellow Armenian compatriots.

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Collection highlights

Travels in the Western Caucasus : including a tour through Imeritia, Mingrelia, Turkey, Moldavia, Galicia, Silesia, and Moravia, in 1836 / by Edmund Spencer. - London : Henry Colburn, 1838.

The travels of Sir John Chardin into Persia and the East Indies, the first volume, containing the authot's voyage from Paris to Ispahan; The coronation of this present king of Persia, Solyman the third / John Chardin. - London : Printed for Moses Pitt, 1686.

A treatise on the geology of Armenia / by Felix Oswald. - Iona : [s.n.], 1906.

Turkey and Russia : their races, history and wars / by Robert Gossip. - Edinburgh : Thomas C. Jack, 1879.

Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand et Lamartine dans la littérature arménienne : poèmes, articles, discours / réunis et trad. par Archag Tchobanian ; préf. de Fernand Gregh. - Paris : Ernest Leroux, 1935.

La vie et la culture arméniennes à Alep au XVIIe siècle / par Ardavazt Surmeyan. - Paris : Araxe, 1934.

Voyage pittoresque de Constantinople et des rives du Bosphore / [d'après les dessins de M. Melling, architecte de l'Empereur Sélim III et dessinateur de la Sultane Hadidgé sa soeur] ; [rédigé par J. C. D. de Lacretelle et J. D. Barbié du Bocage]. - [Paris [etc.] : Treuttel et Würtz : Pierre Didot l'ainé, 1807?].

Le yali des keupruli a Anatoli-Hissar : Cóte asiatique du Bosphore / texte par Mm. H. Saladin et René Mesguich ; préface de Pierre Loti ; dessin relevés sous la direction de M. Y. Terzian, par MM. Nouri et Omer Chéref. - Paris : Société des Amis de Stamboul, 1915.

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