Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon

Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon

Özgen Acar
Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon

The magnificent Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, which is lesser known in Turkey, is made up of various sections. The museum displays ivories, paintings, sculptures, medals, manuscript books and silver dining sets from Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Armenian, Middle Eastern and European art.

The unique examples of İznik and Kütahya tiles from the Seljuk and Ottoman era arts receive attention in the museum, alongside Turkish rugs, silk gold and silvery and golden curtains as well as Qurans.

Here are some examples from the unique İznik and Kütahya tiles.

Footed bowl:

İznik 16th century: It was influenced by China and is in white and blue colors. Its size is extraordinary; 44.2 centimeters in diameter and 26 centimeters in height.

It is the shape of “Hatayi,” which is a Persian word. Hatayi is seen in wall decorations. It is a kind of Turkish art made up of flowers and leaves. The philosophical belief of a person named Mani in the Persian Empire in the 3rd century was reflected on the art. The Uyghur Turks, who adopted Buddhism after Mani’s faith, used it in wall and book decorations.

In the art of ornamentation, which began developing with the recognition of the Mani faith, the ground is blue. The other colors are red, white, gold and green. These are the signs of Hatayi style in flower and plant ornamentations that were stylized in the art of Turkish illumination in the Islamic era.

Ornamentations used in the art of illumination originated from plants and animal species in nature. Flowers in the Hatayi group are generally fictional. Animal forms reached today with the name Rumi. An Anatolian–originated word, Rumi was the most used element in the architectural and illumination arts in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Designs in the 12th and 13th century illuminations are in asymmetrical order in Rumi style. They are plain with partial Hatayi style.

Later on, the cloud element entered the art of ornamentation and was used almost in all ornamentations in the 16th century and onwards. During the Yavuz Sultan Selim period, between 1514 and 1515, the Ottoman art of ornamentations gained a new momentum with the artists who came to Istanbul from Tabriz and Herat after the conquest of Tabriz.

Since the first years of the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent, innovations with the shape of “saz” have been drawing attention in all ornamentations. During this period, the creator of the saz style was Şahkulu, the head painter of the Ottoman palace.

Saz is an ornamentation style created by the Anatolian Seljuks and includes images of sprouts, leaves, animals and dragons.

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Plate:

The 41-centimeter İznik plate has ornamentations which have been influenced by China. Like the footed bowl, this has sprout, leaf and animal elements.

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Tile panel:

This set of 12 pieces with green, blue, cobalt blue and white colors, which dates back to 1545, must have been removed from a mosque.

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Pitcher:

Made in 1550 (30x16.5 cm), the pitcher has white, gray, blue, lavender and violet colors just like the tiles of the Sultan Ahmed I Mosque. These pitchers, which have natural flowers and are called Hanap in the west, were sold to the European market and bought by foreign diplomats in Turkey.

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Panel:

This panel (71x142), which was made in 1573, is made up of 12 pieces. It is from the Piyale Pasha Mosque, built by the Architect Sinan, and has blue, turquoise, red, green and white colors.

Plate:

Two plates (30x22) from 1575-1585 have the lotus flower, geometrical decorations as well as tulip decorations.

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Plate:

It dates back to 1580 and is made up of clay-glass dough. The jug of this plate is in the British Museum. The other three plates of this set were sold in auctions in France and Britain. Two similar Chinese porcelains are at the Topkapı Palace Museum. The 14th century Chinese porcelains influenced the İznik tiles.

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Plate:

Dating back to 1580-1585, this piece is 28 centimeters in diameter. It is one of the plates with animal figures in the museum. The animal fantasia reflects the effect of the metal plates in the Balkan countries. This plate has double women-headed bird monsters called “harpy” as well as hounds, cat, birds, rabbits and owls.

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Bowl:

The museum displays a 16-centimeter bowl, made by Armenian masters in the 18th century in the Central Anatolian province of Kütahya.

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Lamp:

This is a lamp made of Kütahya kiln and glass. It dates back to the 16th century. Unlike the mosque’s lamps, it is believed that it was made by Armenian masters upon a special order. The ones with angel figures were made for Christians.

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Who is Gulbenkian?

Calouste Gulbenkian was born on March 23, 1869 in Istanbul’s Üsküdar neighborhood. He went to Baku at the age 20 with the reference of his father. In 1896, his family left Turkey and immigrated to Egypt. (photo1)

Between 1897 and 1920, he lived in London and became a British citizen. Then he immigrated to Paris. He published a book and an article on oil in France. With these publications, he launched the magnificence of oil resources in the Middle East to the world.

After these publications, the Ottoman minister in charge of mines asked the young researcher about a report on oil resources in the empire. When the issue of oil came to the fore in the international market in the 19th century, Gülbenkian was one of the first actors in the scene.

Because he was given five percent commission for his relations with foreign companies in the drilling of the so-called “black gold” in the Ottoman land, he was called “Mr. Five Percent.”

He started collecting ancient coins that he purchased from villagers in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri. While spending the money he earned, he learned bargaining. Then he took his first step.

He created his magnificent art collection in Paris, where he lived for 20 years. He died at the age of 86 in Lisbon, where he spent his last years between 1942 and 1955. His ashes were put in the St. Sarkis Church, which he had built in memory of his father and mother in London. He also built the Surp Pırgiç (St. Savior) Hospital in Istanbul’s Yedikule neighborhood.

His museum in Lisbon, which is managed by the foundation with the same name, was opened in 1966. Its modern arts section was opened in 1983.

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