The Royal Academy presents a landmark exhibition exploring the artistic and cultural riches of the Turks from Inner Asia to Istanbul and beyond. Spanning a period of a thousand years, from 600 to 1600 AD, a rich array of textiles, manuscripts, calligraphy, woodwork, metalwork and ceramics shows the artistic diversity that culminated in the splendours of the Ottoman Empire.
The exhibition brings together over 350 outstanding works, drawn primarily from the celebrated collections of the Topkapı Saray Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art of Istanbul, including numerous works which have never been exhibited outside Turkey.
Taking visitors on an extraordinary journey, this is the first ever exhibition to explore the development of Turkic cultures, as they forged their way westwards across the eastern borders of Central Asia to the Balkans of Eastern Europe. Throughout their nomadic migrations each group of Turkic peoples appropriated and assimilated the new cultures they encountered. Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600 exposes and explores the cultural interactions that gave rise to the great richness of artistic expression of this period.
The exhibition presents a wealth of material from a momentous thousand-year period. It introduces the art of the Uyghurs, a nomadic tribal group who first rose to prominence in the 7th century at the crossroads of the Silk Route in Central Asia and goes on to explore three key dynasties: the Seljuks (c.1040-1194), the Timurids (c.1370-1506), and an examination of the Ottomans between c.1453 and 1600. With a combination of charismatic leaders, strategic brilliance and military power these groups were able to conquer vast geographic areas and inspire artists to reach new heights of creativity.
The exhibition brings together the extraordinary drawings by Muhammad Siyah Qalam – ‘Muhammad of the Black Pen’ – one of the greatest treasures of the Topkapı Saray Library, never before exhibited outside Turkey. Among the numerous masterpieces on display is an impressive 13th century Seljuk carpet from the mosque built for Sultan Alaeddin Keykûbad in Konya, and a unique Timurid architectural scroll depicting geometric patterns, measuring 30 metres in length. A wealth of Ottoman treasures includes an armoured kaftan of Mehmed ‘The Conqueror’, mosaic wooden doors designed by the great architect Sinan for the harem (the private living quarters of the Sultan) and the ceremonial sword of Suleyman ‘The Magnificent’. In addition, the opening gallery contains a visual introduction, highlighting architectural sites specific to each cultural group.
Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600 has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts. It has been curated by a unique collaboration between three internationally acclaimed specialists Filiz Çagman, Director of the Topkapı Saray Museum, Istanbul; Nazan Ölçer, Director of the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul; David Roxburgh, Professor of Islamic Art at Harvard University and from the Royal Academy of Arts, Norman Rosenthal, Exhibitions Secretary and Adrian Locke, Exhibitions Curator.
Some 350 objects have been brought together, primarily from Istanbul’s Topkapı Saray Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, as well as from collections from across the world, including St Petersburg (The State Hermitage Museum), Berlin (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum), Paris (Musée du Louvre), New York (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) and London (The British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum).
To accompany this major exhibition RA Publications has produced a landmark catalogue, fully illustrated with colour reproductions of each of the exhibits. The catalogue includes introductory essays by Peter B. Golden, Professor of History at Rutgers University, New Jersey; Osman Sertkaya, Chairman of the Institute of Turkology at the University of Istanbul and Peter Zieme, Leader of the research group ‘Turfanforschung’ at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Additional essays by the three curators and leading international scholars from Turkey, USA, Germany and the UK have also been included.
A dedicated website (www.turks.org.uk) has been created to accompany Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600-1600. The site introduces the public to themes within the exhibition, with special features including a time-line of key events in the history of the Turks illustrated by works from the exhibition. The site includes facts and figures; educational information; on-line booking; frequently asked questions; a screensaver and a special e-card.
Babelmed Editorial Team