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Prince of Painters

The Prince’s Extraordinary World: Abdülmecid Efendi
Sabancı University/Sakıp Sabancı Museum

An exhibition exploring the life and works of the last Caliph reveals a love of painting that helped take Turkish art into a new world. By Andrew Finkel and Isobel Finkel

The Sakıp Sabancı Museum maintains its status as one of Turkey’s most innovative cultural institutions with The Prince’s Extraordinary World: Abdülmecid Efendi. But in this case it does so not by crating in treasures from the Louvre or the Aga Khan Collection, but by mining its own historical backyard. The exhibition takes as it subject the art of the last Caliph and Crown Prince of the Ottoman Empire, who, though an accomplished painter, was content to play magpie with the styles of others. The show brings together many of the most ambitious works of this complex figure and is complemented by an exhibition on the floor above showing the influences of his contemporaries.

Also on display are the hopes and aspirations of a pre-First World War generation seen through the eyes of an Ottoman Camelot, a charmed circle that shone briefly, with all the contradictions that implies.

The 60 paintings and 300 documents assembled are the spoils of a huge endeavour of curatorial detective work which secured loans of items from private collections never before seen in public. Ephemera, such as banquet invitations, letters of introduction and photographs, document the networks that allowed the princeling to study under certain artists and become patron to others…


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Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 64
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  • Small Wonder

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  • A Grand New World

    Palaces, mosques, churches and the essentials of empire – the Balyan family’s creations epitomise the golden age of 19th-century Istanbul. A new book reveals the exquisite drawings and supreme organisation behind their landmark edifices – including one that mercifully got away. By Philip Mansel

  • Making an Entrance

    The gate guarding the Ottoman Ministry of War – today’s Istanbul University – is an eloquent example of the Orientalist style that took both East and West by storm in the 19th century. In the gate’s shadow stands the Princes’ Lodge, once the refuge of high-born officers on parade day, now an exotic refectory where professors of Istanbul University enjoy lunch. By Berrin Torolsan. Photographs by Monica Fritz

  • Roman Roads

    In their second Turkish adventure, the acclaimed photographer Don McCullin and the author-publisher Barnaby Rogerson travel south in pursuit of Roman treasures. Originally drawn by the lure of gorgeous goddesses in unsung museums, they discover moody Sardis, with its ruined temple to Artemis, explore Ephesus, with its magnificent library, marvel at the enchanted city of Aphrodisias, and finally reach the mountain fastness of Hadrian’s Sagalassos. Photographs: Don McCullin. Text: Barnaby Rogerson

  • Golden Glories of Kazakhstan

    Caroline Eden admired the Saka treasures at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where an ancient Turkic steppe civilisation revealed its secrets

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Buy the issue
Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
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