March 31, 2023

Wonderful sketches of Ottoman-era Istanbul unveiled at Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization

SHARJAH, November 8, 2017: The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization today invited members of the public to view its latest exhibition, a collection of rare and uniquely intricate drawings showing what life was like in the Ottoman city of Istanbul.

The exhibition Thomas Hope – Drawings of Ottoman Istanbul is being held in collaboration with Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece.

The artworks consist of 60 works made by Thomas Hope, a member of a family of bankers of Scottish descent. Virtuoso, with unique collections of antiquities, sculptures and European paintings, a generous sponsor and an expert in the fields of architecture and decoration overturned the artistic settings of his time, leaving his mark on the period of the Regency.

He was an exceptional designer, author and art collector, during his extensive Grand Tour to the Mediterranean region during the last quarter of the 18th century.

Thomas Hope’s collection of sketches and watercolours wonderfully capture everyday life in the bustling Ottoman-era city, with depictions of people, buildings and streets put down on paper.

The exhibition was initially shown in Athens last year, curated by Dr Fani-Maria Tsigakou, Emeritus Curator of the Benaki Museum and Mina Moraitou, curator of the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art.

The drawings will be displayed at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization from November 8, 2017 to February 10, 2018.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to view panoramas of Istanbul, scenes from its different neighborhoods as well as depictions of the city’s stunning Ottoman palaces, mosques and grand public buildings.

When Hope visited Istanbul, he found a cosmopolitan city that was home to foreigners from Europe and beyond. Their presence, together with that of Muslim, Christian and Jewish subjects of the Ottoman Empire, helped to create the city’s wonderfully multicultural population.

Hope drew some of the best-known mosques of the old city. Some of these were captured in individual drawings, while others were sketched towering over the city’s sprawling landscape of buildings.

Thomas Hope spent around a year in the city, admiring and drawing the main attractions. His works remained in his library until his death in 1831. They were later sold off at auction by his family. Scholars believed they had been lost, however, they were in fact been purchased in the 1930’s by Antonis Benakis, founder of the Benaki Museum, and kept in the Museum Library.

“The Sharjah Museums Authority is delighted to host Thomas Hope – Drawings of Ottoman Istanbul, which offers visitors to the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization the opportunity to see what life was like in one of the world’s most important and vibrant cities,” said Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority.

“Thomas Hope went to great lengths to put as much detail as possible down on paper. His drawings are superbly intricate and capture the smallest detail, down to the clothes worn by Istanbul’s society.

“The drawings on show in this wonderful exhibition are sure to appeal to everyone, from students of Islamic history and architecture to art enthusiasts alike. We look forward to welcoming the public to this unique and truly fascinating exhibition.”

As Mina Moraitou comments : “Thomas Hope’s drawings are some of the most important pieces we have at the Benaki Museum. We are delighted to be able to bring them to the UAE and exhibit them at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization for the first time.”

Thomas Hope – Drawings of Ottoman Istanbul exhibition also looks at the life, times and discoveries of Thomas Hope as he toured Europe. Visitors will be able to read the detailed notes he made to accompany his collection of drawings and document his travels.

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