Halil Şerif Pasha

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For other people named Halil Pasha, see Halil Pasha (disambiguation).

Halil Şerif Pasha (June 20, 1831 – January 12, 1879), also transliterated as Halil Sherif Pasha, was an Ottoman-Egyptian diplomat and art collector whose collection was described by Théophile Gautier as "the first ever to be formed by a child of Islam".

For most of his life, Halil was known by the name Halil Bey. During the Ottoman Empire, "Bey" was not a surname but rather a courtesy title recognized and sanctioned by the Ottoman government. The title "Bey" is used by a person to indicate that he is the son of a Pasha. Halil used the title "Bey" as part of his name because his father Mehmed Şerif had attained the rank of Pasha. On August 10, 1871, Halil Bey was raised to the rank of Mushir (Field Marshal) by Sultan Abdülaziz (reigned 1861–1876). The rank of "Mushir" entitled Halil to use his father's name "Şerif", as well as the honorific title "Pasha", as parts of his name.

Halil was born in Cairo, Egypt after his father Mehmed Şerif Pasha (died February 13, 1865) had emigrated to Egypt from Kavala (in what is now northern Greece) to serve as a captain in the army of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, making a huge fortune in the process. Halil's father sent Halil, along with his brothers Ali Pasha Sherif (1834–1897) and Osman to be educated at the École Militaire Égyptienne, an Egyptian military school which Muhammad Ali Pasha had set up in Paris in 1844. Halil took up his first official post in 1855 as Commissioner to the International Exhibition in Paris that year. He entered the Ottoman diplomatic service in 1856, serving as one of the plenipotentiaries negotiating the end to the Crimean War then as ambassador to Athens and Saint Petersburg, on which posts he began collecting. He grew to dislike Saint Petersburg's cold and so retired in a private capacity to Paris in the mid-1860s, renting expensive rooms from the English collector Lord Hertford on Rue Taitbout and becoming a noted gambler, art collector and patron.

He was introduced to Gustave Courbet by Sainte-Beuve, and commissioned Les Dormeuses (The Sleepers) and L'Origine du monde from him. He also acquired Le Bain turc (The Turkish Bath) from Ingres and other works by Eugène Delacroix, Troyon, Daubigny, Meissonier, Corot, Rousseau and Gerome. In January 1868 he sold off his collection just before leaving to become Ottoman ambassador to Vienna, thus getting out of Paris only 2 years before the Franco-Prussian War. After that posting he moved to Constantinople and married Princess Nazli Fazl, the daughter of one of the prominent reformers of the time, Mustafa Fazl Pasha. In 1877, he returned to Paris as Ottoman ambassador for a few months.


  • Francis Haskell, 'A Turk and His Pictures in Nineteenth-Century Paris', Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, Patronage (1982), pp. 40–47