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DOORS OF BYZANTIUM: Drawing the Boukoleon Palace Portals

A drawing lesson in nine chapters. Drafting pens on white rag paper, 35 X 70 cm. The 9thCentury Boukoleon Palace, I’m happy to say, is presently in good hands, being properly excavated and fortified. When I drew and wrote the posts below, it seemed it might just rot away. So I was documenting what was left after railroad, after the highway, after the Fourth Crusade, when Mehmet the Conqueror said, “I weep, for the owl cries, the spider spins its web in the great house of the Caesars.” This is the story of that drawing.

SUMMER 2011: 1 HULUSI Hulusi is Ulysses in Turkish.

This graffiti used to be high above the tiny beach below the great remaining portals of the Boukoleon Palace. Before the highway, some fisherman or wanderer climbed up on something and painted this stone with his name. The black and white photo is the Boukoleon in 1950. The color one is in 2011, when I drew the Portals. See the row of square white stones like teeth at the bottom? There’s our Hulusi.

Boukoleon in 1950
Boukoleon in 2011

Showed up at the Boukoleon Palace today where I was greeted by barking dogs. Awful, trash everywhere, weeds, and a new bum lean-to at the wall under the high Byzantine portals I’m drawing, rowdy guys in there. Police showed up, said Be Careful but don’t seem to care, nobody seems to care about this palace but me, drawing like a fool.

Dog in the Ruins

A dramatic frenzy of brick shards radiating around the arches, marble posts and lintels bowed with age, muscular blackened spines of brick arcing up behind the portals. Then a shock, tourists actually walking around up in there. Wanted to rip them out of there. Used to live behind the Palace, on the railroad. Spent years staring at that arcade of arches and could never get in, days and nights imagining what it looked like from there. So now I packed up all my paraphernalia and hoofed it up the hill and around to the property adjacent to the Palace which has always been blocked off. It was open, but you had to walk over a broken gate and someone’s garden. It is forbidden to block off these places, the guys he bribed must have lost office. But finally there I stood at last, high in the center portal looking out towards the sea, just where I’d drawn and dreamed so many times. The marble on those portals is ten inches thick, the mortar still holding over a thousand years.

Overview of the Boukoleon taken around 2009, when I lived behind it on the railroad.
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