Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Istanbul, there are many opportunities to learn about Turkey’s history in the form of artwork and old photographs.

Most recently, we did just that by taking in the new exhibit, Osman Hamdi Bey & The Americans, at the Pera Museum in Beyoğlu. This exhibit, ongoing through Jan. 8, 2012, features the intersecting lives of three people: the bureaucrat, painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey, the father of American archaeological photography John Henry Haynes, and the famous German Assyriologist Hermann Vollrath Hilprecht. (I first learned about this exhibit thanks to my new issue of Cornucopia Magazine, a well-written magazine about travel, culture and art in Turkey.)
1891-92: Osman Hamdi Bey, in the middle left, featured with others at an archaeological site in Turkey.
Honestly, I don’t recall hearing these names before, but I do remember seeing and hearing about this specific painting:
The highlight of the exhibit for me!
In this 1906 painting by Osman Hamdi, “The Tortoise Trainer” features a male figure, dressed in oriental attire, watching the tortoises eat lettuce on the floor. The tortoises were trained to walk in a single-file line and carried candles on their backs, which were once used to illuminate the grounds at the sultan’s palaces, Dolmabahçe Sarayı and and also at the Topkapı Sarayı.

I promptly turned to my husband and asked if I could have a turtle. I’m a sucker for any type of small creature. “No” was his reply.

In another painting, “At The Mosque Door (1891),” Hamdi features himself in the lower right-hand corner among the other people. According to the museum’s plaque, he “loosely based his setting on the entrance facade of the 1426 mosque of the Muradiye in Bursa, however, the carved inscription framing the upper balcony in the painting was directly taken from the Çoban Mustafa Paşa Camii in Gebze (1523)."
Interestingly, Hamdi features the Ottoman women unveiled in this painting.
In addition to many fine paintings, the exhibit has many photographs, taken by Haynes, about archaeological excavations, specifically in Assos, Cappadocia and Nippur.
1883 - Hamdi poses in front of the large head of Zeus at the Mount Nemrut
excavation site in far east Turkey.
I don’t want to give the entire exhibit away, so I’ll conclude with this one photo. If you’d like to see more photos and can’t make the exhibit, check out: “John Henry Haynes: A Photographer and Archaeologist in the Ottoman Empire 1881-1900,” written by Robert G. Ousterhout. The book features many never-before published photos of the archaeological digs Haynes witnessed in Turkey and outlying areas. It’s on my list!

If you are in Istanbul, this fascinating Pera exhibit should be placed high up on your list of things to do!

At the end, pull up a comfy chair in the museum’s cafe and enjoy a frothy cappuccino like we did.
  • Pera Museum, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No.65, Istanbul

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2 comments:

Dolce Fooda said...

Dear Joy,

I recently found your blog and I was so delighted, it is very nice... You are really fortunate to live in Turkey, a place with such a great food and history. That's funny, you used to live in Maryland and moved to Istanbul and I lived in Serbia (not far from Turkey) and now I am in Baltimore. You have a post about Belgrade forest and that is the name of my home city. I have been to Istanbul only once... one of the most interesting cities in the world. Keep writing about that amazing country. All the best with your blog!

cecileeugenie said...

Hi Joy,

did you take advantage of the IWI discount (4 issues for the price of 3) when subscribing to Cornucopia? I can't figure out how to do that on the website. :-( Are there other ways to subscribe?
Cecile

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