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Hidden from the view of visitors trailing through the Topkapı Palace, a modest door in a narrow corridor in the Harem opens into an empty but splendid set of privy chambers. Cornucopia was given rare access to these rooms, which cast light on the way imperial tastes changes during the 18th century and how Dutch tiles became such a prominent feature of the decor. Nurhan Atasoy and fellow art historians from Turkey and Holland tell the story. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg.
Most of the sultans’ privy chambers and pavilions in the Topkapı Harem are closed to the public and will remain so until ways can be found to exhibit them sensitively – no mean feat given the fragility of the murals, the gilded fretwork, and the rush flooring that once protected precious carpets from damp and friction.
Cornucopia was allowed to tiptoe through two of the privy chambers at the palace built by sultans for themselves and their families rather than for public show. Filling out the picture of how life was lived in this inner sanctum, the palace museum organised an exhibition this summer (2012) of some 300 related objects, entitled Harem: The House of the Sultan. The book of the exhibition contains useful essays on the history of the Harem, and how it was built and added to, layer upon layer, over the centuries, until they ran out of room and had to build huge platforms and terraces out over Gülhane Park, literally creating pavilions in the air.
They were stigmatised and despised, and eventually they were closed down. But what would Turkey be today without the Village Institutes, its bravest educational revolution, and the young people they empowered? Maureen Freely tells the moving story of the institutes, the subject of a new book and exhibition
The lethal mischief of Canon MacColl, by David Barchard
The Istanbul diaries of Gertrude Bell, now available online, reveal her astonishing transformation from socialite to scholar and political observer. By Robert Ousterhout
As Turkey and the Netherlands celebrate 400 years of diplomatic relations, Henk Boom highlights the twenty turbulent years that Frederik Gijsbert, Baron van Dedem spent as ambassador to Constantinople
Simple on the outside, some wooden village mosques had an added portico reminiscent of galleries opening onto the courtyards of private houses in the region. Inside, pillared halls and colourful painting on the wooden structure and on the walls make for a warm, joyful space. Photographs by Tarkan Kutlu
Sagalassos, the remote site in southern Turkey where a giant statue of Emperor Hadrian was discovered five years ago, is the driving passion of Marc Waelkens. The Belgian archaeologist, whose new book is now available from Cornucopia, talks to Thomas Roueché about his pioneering work as director of excavations
The best table grapes in Istanbul are the fragrant, delicate skinned çavuş from the northern Aegean island of Bozcaada, ancient Tenedos, and the sweet sultaniye grapes from around Izmir.
Maggie Quigley-Pınar describes a book of photographs that evoke the spirit an almost-forgotten modern era: Istanbul in the 1970s
John Carswell pays tribute to his friend Honor Frost, doyenne of underwater archaeology
James Crow on Istanbul’s amazing system of aqueducts
The landmark 2012 exhibition at the Tokpapı Palace, and the sumptuous book that accompanied it.
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