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Palace of Ibrahim Pasa - Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art

Palace of Ibrahim Pasa - Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art

The museum has some of the most beautiful and exquisite art and craft pieces that come from all over the Middle East housed inside what was once the private palace of Ibrahim Paşa the Grand Vizier and brother-in-law to Suleyman the Magnificent.  It is not only the collection of magnificent carpets and artefacts that make this one of the must see places on tourist maps but the building itself is the only Ottoman private palace to have survived and dates back to the 16th century. 

Museum Opening Hours

The Museum of Turkish & Islamic Art (Tel: +90 (212) 518 1805 & 06) is housed in the beautiful and historical Ibrahim Pasa Palace and opens daily between 09:30-17:00 except Mondays.

Location

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art is located in Fatih .

History

It was built in the 16th century and donated by the great sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent , to his Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasa as he was the first counsellor to the Sultan and also married the Sultan’s sister.

The palace was completed in 1524 and built with stone rather than wood which made it stand out against the neighbouring buildings.  Although this is a very grand building today originally it was even more grand and larger than Topkapi Palace with four separate courtyards and an elegant open gallery (loggia) that enabled the residents to see directly into the Hippodrome .  Unfortunately this led to the early demise of Ibrahim Paşa by attracting the envy of the sultan’s wife Roxelana who considered this palace more elaborate than the sultan’s and because of this he met his early death and the palace was then taken over by the government.  The palace was venue to many important weddings and circumcision parties and since the death of Ibrahim has been used as a barracks, a land registry office, home of foreign ambassadors, a clothes factory and even a prison.  After restoration works, the ceremonial hall and other parts of the building were opened to the public and thus became the museum you see today.

Artefacts at the Museum

It has a fine collection of art and ethnography and the carpet collection here is unprecedented and show-cased along with many other rare items from around the world. With a collection of over 15,000 manuscripts that span from the 8th to the 19th centuries the museum introduces visitors to a historical adventure of the development of a basic civilisation and shows how Turks played a leading role in the evolution of the Muslim social life and culture.

The museum also provides valuable ethnographical objects reflecting the lifestyle of the Turkish people that are made of stone, ceramic, wood and metal as well as tents and yurts which were essential components of the nomadic Turks’ daily lives.

Halls of the Museum

Islamic Arts & Crafts

The museums main collection is in the upper part of the palace.  These exhibits are arranged in a chronological order with many of the better labelled items placed in rooms off the main corridors.  There are artefacts from the palaces of the Abbasid caliph’s at Baghdad and Samarra that include beautiful and colourful mosaics and frescoes; a magnificent wooden door salvaged from the Great Mosque dating back to 1155;  a huge collection of Seljuk ceramics with unglazed 13th century pieces along with fabulous ewers and bronze boxes.  There is also collection of blue and white Miletus ware that was actually manufactured in Iznik and a good collection of portraits of the Shah’s of Persia.  Other items on show that were brought here from elsewhere in Istanbul are; inlaid wooden Koran boxes removed from the tombs of Rüstem Paşa, Selim II and Sultan Ahmed I and from the Hagia Sophia Library that date from the 16th and 17th centuries; a 19th century gold jug and ewer removed from the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque and there are examples of 19th century Beykoz Glass that resemble porcelain.

The Ethnography Section

This section is as equally interesting as the main section and can be found by leaving through the courtyard and re-entering from downstairs.  It exhibits show visitors Turkish daily life through the ages and a large part of this section is dedicated to the nomadic lifestyle which is now virtually non-existent in Turkey, along with the loss of its handicraft traditions. 

On show are pieces from the Karaçadır (Black Tent) nomad’s who came from the Adana area. These include their beautifully coloured hand woven sacks that have been placed on the walls of a re-erected tent and what would have originally served as back cushions or used for storage, and in other rooms are explanations of how they gathered, dyed and wove the wool making it into saddlebags, rugs, storage bags and decorations for their tents. 

This section also houses a set of dioramas portraying life in Turkey in the 19th century and include a reconstructed wood carved interior of a village house; a fabric shop with the patrons selling their materials and wearing traditional fez hats; another reconstructed interior shows a rich household with women dressed in heavy velvet embellished in the bindallı style of gold embroidery.  Another shows the expensive items that women would take to the hamam such as soaps and combs, carried in metal engraved bags and would wear wooden clogs inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl into the hot rooms.  There is a depiction of a bridal chamber showing how it would be decorated for the newly married couple and two other reconstructions of rich Istanbul homes that could almost be from Victorian England.

Turkish carpets

Most of the large carpets are in the Divanhane and almost all of the carpets exhibited at the museum came from the floors of mosques in the central Anatolian towns of Konya and Sivrihisar.  The carpets were removed mainly for their own security and preservation and many of today’s mosques would now have inferior machine made carpets in their place.  The oldest on display are a set of seven 14th century carpets that come from the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya ; the most impressive pieces are the floor to ceiling Usak carpets dating back to the 16th century, on display in the Ceremonial Hall, which once decorated the Piyale Paşa Mosque and the Galata Mevlevihanesi.  There are also examples of the Persian woven “garden carpets” that were made in the 18th and 19th centuries and taken from a mosque in Erzurum in north-eastern Turkey. 

The Holbein & Lotto Carpets refer to 16th century European artists with the same names and who would paint images of oriental carpets into their paintings and so much so many of them became known as Holbein or Lotto carpets.  The most famous example of this is shown on the painting “The Ambassadors” which hangs in the National Gallery in London, England shows a carpet draped over a cupboard in the centre; there are several of these carpets on display here in the museum.

Other sections of the museum include wooden works from the 9th and 10th centuries and the Selçuk and Beylik period with exhibits of tortoiseshells inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl belonging to the Ottoman era; ceramics and glass with examples of 10th century Islamic glass art and ceramic works that were discovered during excavations from 1908-1914; examples of mihrab and wall encaustic tiles and plaster ornaments from the Konya Kılıçaslan Palace.  Other qualified works of art can also be found in the Stone Art and Hand Writing & Calligraphy sections.
There is also a courtyard café at the museum, it’s in a lovely setting and a quiet haven where you can sit and look out at the Blue Mosque and relax drinking a cup of Tea or coffee.

The museum underwent a restoration which completed in April 2014.  

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