Born in the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, Abdülmecid Efendi was the son of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876) and the last Ottoman caliph. He spent the first fifty years of his life as a prince, four years as crown prince, sixteen months as caliph, and the last twenty years in exile. A prolific painter and patron of the arts, his support of the intellectuals and artists of his time went far beyond what was expected of the Ottoman dynasty, developing into sincere friendships. He took his first painting lessons from the court painter, Stanisław Chlebowski. After his father’s death in 1876, he received a multi-faceted education at the Şehzadegân (Prince’s) School at the Yıldız Palace, supervised by Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909). Abdülmecid Efendi also cultivated an interest in calligraphy, music and literature, and learned many foreign languages. He closely followed new developments in Western literature, acquiring magazines and books for his magnificent library. He also had close connections with the Academy of Fine Arts instructors, taking painting lessons from Salvatore Valeri as well as from the court painter Fausto Zonaro. Following the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Monarchy, he became an ally and supporter of those who practised the art of painting in the Ottoman Empire. The Society of Ottoman Painters was established in 1909 under his patronage. Abdülmecid Efendi took painting lessons from İbrahim Çallı, who returned from Paris in 1914. With the abolition of the sultanate, Abdülmecid Efendi was elected caliph by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in 1922. When the caliphate was abolished in 1924, he was exiled abroad, along with other members of the Ottoman dynasty. He lived in Switzerland for a short period, then settled in Nice, and spent the final years of his life in Paris.
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