Istanbul’s museum home to unmatched Ottoman painting collection
Following a multi-year restoration project, the National Palaces Painting Museum in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district was reopened by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in January.
The museum first opened in 2014 in the Dolmabahçe Palace’s Veliahd Residence, the living quarters of heirs to the throne at the Dolmabahçe Palace which is the famed home of the Ottoman Empire’s last six sultans and the place where Turkey’s founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk spent his last days.
In Turkey, the week of May 18-24 marks International Museum Week, which grew out of International Museum Day, organized by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) since 1977 to raise awareness of how museums “are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples,” according to the group’s website.
With an apparent nod to efforts to reclaim public space after a year lost to the pandemic, this year’s theme is “The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine.”
[HH] Ottoman palace painting collection
Speaking with the state-run Anadolu Agency, Gülseren Sevinç Kaya, the museum director, said that only a part of the Veliahd Residence was opened for visitors in 2014.
“The restoration of the other part was finished at the end of 2018,” she added, noting that in the meantime, they carried out works for furnishing both the newly opened and existing sections that were open to visitors.
“New and thematic sections were opened. We used to have 11 thematic sections, but now this number has increased to 34,” Kaya said.
She added that the museum also tripled the number of exhibited paintings from 200 to 600 following the restoration work after the addition of Topkapı Palace paintings to the collection.
“The National Palaces’ painting collection is the heir to the Ottoman palace painting collection,” she said. “We’re the only heir in Turkey and the world, so we tried to introduce the richest parts of our collection,” she added.
The two-floor museum boasts sections dedicated to classical Turkish painters such as Osman Hamdi Bey and Şeker Ahmed Paşa, as well as Russian painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky. It also includes other halls such as Imagining Istanbul, Landscape Paintings in the Ottoman Palace and Gallipoli, paying homage to the famed World War I battle.
Another important artwork at the museum is Prince Halim’s Gazelle Hunt at the Gatah Desert: Hound Share, known in Turkish as “Çölde Av” (Desert Hunt).
“It’s the largest painting of our National Palaces’ painting collection,” she said.
The large 1865 painting by France’s Felix Auguste Clement shows 13 people dismounted following a hunt. The painting was on display at Istanbul’s Said Halim Pasha Mansion before being transferred to the National Palaces Painting Museum in 2019.
Kaya also highlighted the museum’s picturesque location as well as its beautiful garden and cafes. According to Kaya, visitors looking to get the most out of the waterside museum should set aside a full day.