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From Istanbul to Byzantium

Paths to Rediscovery, 1800–1955

November 23, 2021 – March 6, 2022

The Pera Museum, Meşrutiyet Cad 65, Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu, Istanbul


A scholarly, hugely rewarding show accompanied by a fine scholarly catalogue reviewed in the forthcoming Cornucopia (No 64) by Prof Ousterhout.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a confluence of geopolitical, diplomatic, academic, artistic, and local interests in Istanbul paved the way for increased awareness of the Byzantine past as a rich and shared heritage. Curated by Brigitte Pitarakis, this exhibition, part of a Byzantine double whammy, explores the central role of the Ottoman capital in shaping the emerging discipline of Byzantine studies.

Notes from the curator:

In Istanbul’s lively and multicultural environment, a common passion arose in intellectual circles among people from diverse backgrounds, origins, and countries who had come together in newly established cultural and academic institutions focusing on Byzantium. Over the course of transformations in the landscape set in motion by efforts to modernize the city, steps were taken to move away from the simplistic Orientalist view of Constantinople as a fantastically picturesque city by adopting a rational approach to antiquities newly discovered or recently rediscovered. Those involved in documenting Istanbul’s Byzantine past not only blazed a trail in the conservation of the city’s cultural heritage but also developed scientific methods of study in their search for certainty.

These developments – leading toward a scientific approach to Byzantium and insufficiently studied until now – stand at the centre of From Istanbul to Byzantium. They are documented through an impressive array of archival holdings, in particular the Byzantine collections of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.

The juncture of circumstances and activities that triggered interest in Istanbul’s Byzantine past is contextualised by bringing together Byzantine artifacts along with related books, prints, maps, photographs, documents and paintings from the collections of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, the Istanbul University Rare Books Library, Ömer Koç, the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, Galeri Nev İstanbul, Serap Kayhan, Dr. Safder Tarim, Büke Uras, and the Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive, EPHE, Fonds Gabriel Millet, Collège de France, Fonds Thomas Whittemore, Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

3D animation by A. Tayfun Öner animates the initial stages of the modern discovery of Byzantium and the path toward its heritage becoming an area of academic study, conservation, and widespread interest.


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