Sakıp Sabancı’s (d. 2004) collection of calligraphic works by famous calligraphers, Korans and illuminated manuscripts began with the purchase of a levha (calligraphic panel) by Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808-39). The Sakıp Sabancı collection expanded in the 1980s with the purchase of private collections, and from 1989 onwards it was exhibited in major museums abroad. The keen interest attracted by these exhibitions cemented Sakıp Sabancı and his family’s resolve to further enlarge the collection and encouraged the idea of founding a museum. In 1998 the family mansion Atlı Köşk (the Mansion with the Horse) was bequeathed to Sabancı University for the purpose of converting it into a museum, and in 2002 the Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum opened to the public. The ground floor of the mansion was preserved with the original furnishings used by the Sabancı family when they lived there, while the upper floor rooms were transformed into galleries for exhibiting Ottoman manuscripts and calligraphic compositions. In 2012, the 10th anniversary of the Museum, the exhibition technique was enriched with technological applications, enabling the guests to view all pages of thr exhibited manuscripts as well as the bindingd with the iPads provided. Spanning a period from the 14th to 20th century, Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Arts of the Book and Calligraphy Collection consists of Koran manuscripts and prayer books written by renowned calligraphers; albums compiling pages of Koranic verses, hadith, aphorisms and verses decorated with ornamental works and cut-papers; large panels composed to be hanged on the wall just like paintings; illuminated official documents bearing the imperial cipher of the Ottoman sultans, some of which are illuminated, and calligrapher’s tools made of silver and organic substances, such as coral, ivory, bone and tortoise shell.
Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Painting Collection is composed of select examples of early Turkish painting as well as the works of foreign artists who worked in Istanbul during the later years of the Ottoman Empire. The collection, started by Sakıp Sabancı in the 1970s, constitutes a cultural treasure providing significant clues about the initial phases of Turkish painting, thus proving to be a historic continuation of the SSM’s The Arts of the Book and Calligraphy Collection. The collection is focused primarily on works created between 1850 and 1950, and in addition to works by local artists such as Rafael Manas (1715-1780), Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910), Şeker Ahmed Paşa (1841-1907), Süleyman Seyyid (1842-1913), Nazmi Ziya Güran (1881-1937), İbrahim Çallı (1882-1960), Feyhaman Duran (1886-1970) and Fikret Muallâ (1903-1967), also includes the works of foreign artists like Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929) and Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900). The collection bears witness to the processes of the transformation of Turkish image production and the evolution of the concepts of art and artist, while embodying the clues of the modernization process starting from the Ottoman Empire and continuing with the Republic of Turkey.
Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Collection of Furniture and Decorative Arts is exhibited in Atlı Köşk’s rooms preserved the way they were during the period when the Sabancı Family resided there. The collection consisting of 18th-19thcentury Sèvres vases bearing Napoleon’s emblem, Bohemian chandeliers and numerous accessories reflect the transformation the society and social life underwent during the late Ottoman period. The changes brought by Westernization in the 19th century in the government structure, military and social sphere influenced Istanbul’s cultural life as well, leading the way to a new lifestyle. During this period, Istanbul’s residential area expanded, andcivilian and government buildings reflecting the influence of baroque, rococo, neo-gothic, neo-classical and empire styles of European architectural tradition were built on the Bosphorus where Atlı Köşk itself was added to the scene in the first half of the 20th century. The furniture, constituting an integral part ofthe interior design was selected and produced in accordance with the architectural style of the building, and again inspired by these eclectic styles of European origin.
The Sakıp Sabancı Museum Archaeological Artifacts Collection consists of twenty-two stone artifacts on display in the museum’s gardens. The majority of the collection is made up of marble column capitals dating to Late Antiquity. The forms and decorative elements of the Ionic, Corinthian, and composite capitals provide insight into the stonemasonry of the period, and various traces on the artifacts also provide significant information regarding their secondary uses. Within the group of column capitals, four composite capitals are thought to date to the nineteenth century and are especially significant as they show how motifs from Antiquity and Late Antiquity were reinterpreted in the Neoclassical period. Another column capital dating to the late antique period, bears traces indicating that it was reworked by nineteenth-century stonemasons. Of the other pieces in the collection, two featuring scenes from Ancient Greek and Roman mythology are especially striking. One is an altar showing the goddess Cybele, and the other is a column drum depicting the war between the giants and the gods of Mount Olympus (the gigantomachy). The latest dated example in the collection belonging to the Middle Ages, is an architrave, often used atop the barriers known as templon or iconostasis that separated the nave from the sanctuary in Byzantine churches. The arched decoration of the architrave, which dates back to the eleventh century, is characteristic of Asia Minor, and it constitutes a special example of the expression of religious symbols in interior architectural decoration.