Kevork Essayan

Kevork Essayan (1897-1981), Calouste Gulbenkian’s son-in-law, was born in Istanbul and died in Paris.

His family – Amiras – were prominent bankers in the Ottom Empire and his grandfather was Abraham Pascha (Minister for Finance and Customs for the Ottoman Empire). He attended the Guetronakan Central High School and subsequently the American Robert College in Istanbul. In 1920, he married Rita-Sirvart Gulbenkian and together they had a son, Mikhael Essayan, who was the former Trustee of the Armenian Communities Department and Honorary President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Throughout his life, Kevork Essayan worked closely with Calouste Gulbenkian, his father-in-law, in the fields of finance, oil and diplomatic affairs.  After Gulbenkian’s death he was elected co-executor of the will jointly with José de Azeredo Perdigão, for setting up the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.  He remained a member of the Board and Counsellor until his death.

In the capacity as Trustee he was responsible for the Departments that he had set up namely: the Oil Department (now extinct), the Department for the Middle East (currently named the Armenian Communities Department) and the Finance Department. He created the “Collection of the Armenian Culture Library” of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a collection of works on Armenian culture of international recognition that secured many prizes over the past century. A man of extraordinary modesty, Kevork Essayan favoured the development of charity, science and art in the Middle East.

Kevork Essayan was awarded the highest honorary distinctions: Order of Christ (Portugal), Legion of Honour (France), Prince of Cilicia of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, Commendatory of the Order of St. Gregory (Armenia), Commendatory of the Order of St. James and of the Saint Sepulchre (Jerusalem), Commendatory of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (Vatican), Commendatory of the Cedar (Lebanon), Commendatory of the Order of Omiade (Syria), Order of the Lion and of the Sun (Iran), Order of Rafidian (Iraq), Order of the Star of the Hashemites (Jordan).