CM: Miss Maria West (1827-1894), was appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) to present Protestantism in different parts of Turkey from 1853. In 1878, considering the time ripe to establish her own educational institution, Miss West opened a small day-school in Smyrna, to which the American Collegiate Institute (ACI) traces its origins. Both girls and boys were accepted for admission, and a small tuition fee was collected from each pupil. Religious instruction and English lessons made up the core of the curriculum. Besides educational work, Miss West also distributed Protestant religious tracts, made home visits to Christian families, and helped establish the Smyrna Rest, a temperance saloon and Protestant meeting hall on Smyrna's waterfront. A couple of years after opening her school, Miss West chose to appoint a successor and to continue her missionary work in Constantinople.
Miss Maria West posed in the studio of the Abdullah Frères, best-known photographers in Constantinople of the period, in 1887, nearly ten years after founding the American Collegiate Institute in Smyrna. She stands majestically, wearing a stylish double-buttoned fronted coat with very wide sleeves decorated – as is her collar – with velvet tassels. Prominent on her head is a hat tied with a bow under the chin, decorated with ostrich feathers. Her waved hair is parted in the middle. Her hands are crossed in front of her and carry short leather gloves. As in most photographs of this period the sitter is advised to look away from the camera.
Miss Maria West's original portrait of 1887 by Abdullah Frères (14x10), kept at ACG Presidential Archive, was enlarged and transferred onto canvas in 2008 to join the other Presidential portraits at Pierce Theater Lobby.
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2005]
ÖZENDES, ENGIN Abdullah Frères: Ottoman Court Photographers 1998 Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul
ÖZTUNCAY, BAHATTIN The Photographers of Constantinople: Pioneers, Studios and Artists from 19th Century Istanbul 2003 Yapı Kredi Yayınları, İstanbul
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Silent Dialogues: Multimedia Portraits Throughout Time 2008 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens