A traveling exhibition of imperial jewels and treasures from the Topkapi
Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the historic center of one of the world's most powerful empires, will
open at three museums in the United States in the year 2000. Palace of Gold & Light:
Treasures from the Topkapi, Istanbul will feature rare art and artifacts from the royal home of
the Ottoman Sultans. Many objects in the exhibition have never before left the Palace, and
highlights will include the famous emerald and diamond adorned Topkapi dagger and a
magnificently crafted imperial throne.
Organized by the Palace Arts Foundation, a nonprofit institution dedicated to fostering
international cultural exchange, the exhibition will open at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in
Washington, D.C. on March 1, 2000, where it will remain on view through June 15, 2000. The
exhibition will then be presented at the San Diego Museum of Art from July 14 through
September 24, 2000, and at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, from October 15, 2000
through January 14, 2001.
Lead corporate support for Palace of Gold & Light: Treasures from the Topkapi, Istanbul has
been provided by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
Palace of Gold & Light: Treasures from the Topkapi, Istanbul will include more than 200
objects on loan from the Topkapi Palace Museum that represent the extraordinary artistic
achievements and blending of cultural aesthetics that occurred during the Ottoman Empire.
The exhibition also will explore the powerful roles the Sultan held in Ottoman society,
including absolute monarch, supreme religious leader, military strategist, and royal patron of
art and education.
Featured in the exhibition will be the Topkapi dagger, one of the Palace's greatest treasures
made famous by the popular 1964 film Topkapi. Originally crafted before 1747 as a gift to
the Persian King Nadir Shah, the dagger never reached its intended recipient, who was killed
in an uprising before the Ottoman emissary crossed the border into Iran. The dagger features
three unusually large emeralds in its handle, with an eight-sided emerald cover at its top
concealing a small watch. Along both sides of the handle are rows of diamonds, and the back
of the handle is covered in mother-of-pearl and enamel.
Other highlights will include such Turkish national treasures as: an imperial throne of precious
materials; rich Ottoman textiles and silk royal robes; jewel-encrusted imperial ceremonial
objects; intricately designed wool and silk carpets from imperial looms; finely crafted armor and
weaponry; Chinese porcelains; musical instruments; illuminated religious and literary
manuscripts; and bejeweled domestic objects.
Palace of Gold & Light: Treasures from the Topkapi, Istanbul is a timely tribute to the
cultural splendor of the Ottoman Empire as we commemorate the 700th anniversary of its
foundation, said Ambassador Baki Ilkin of the Republic of Turkey. I would like to thank the
Palace Arts Foundation for taking the lead to bring this important collection to the United
The Ottoman Empire left an exceedingly rich cultural and artistic legacy, and the Palace Arts
Foundation is delighted to bring, with the government of the Republic of Turkey, a selection of
the most precious objects from the Topkapi to the United States, said Richard C. Barkley,
former American Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, Ret., and chairman of the Palace
The majestic Topkapi Palace, a seaside complex of buildings with extraordinary views of Asia
and Europe, was begun in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in the new
Ottoman capital of Istanbul, formerly the Byzantine capital Constantinople. For 400 years, it
remained the center of one of the most powerful and sophisticated empires in the world. At its
height, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans from Greece to the Austrian frontier, the Arab
East, North Africa, Crimea, Hungary, and parts of Italy and Sicily, Poland and Ukraine.
The Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Sultans until the early 19th century. It
housed the world's most famous harem, and also was the center of the vast Empire's
administration, education, military, and arts. Thousands of people from the far corners of the
Empire of many different ethnic backgrounds and religions lived and worked there, creating a
culturally dynamic atmosphere. The Palace employed the most talented artists and craftsmen,
who contributed diverse aesthetic styles and materials and created Ottoman imperial objects
of the highest quality.
Curator of Palace of Gold & Light: Treasures from the Topkapi, Istanbul is Dr. Tülay Artan
(Berktay), a specialist in 18th-century Ottoman institutions and social and cultural history.
Trained at Harvard and M.I.T., Dr. Artan teaches at Istanbul Technical University. She was
curatorial consultant to the exhibition Splendors of the Ottoman Sultans shown in Memphis in
1992. Serving as senior advisor to the exhibition is Dr. Walter Denny, an eminent authority on
Islamic art. Dr. Denny is professor of art history and Middle East studies at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst, and honorary curator of textiles at the Harvard University Art
The immense wealth of the Ottoman Sultans, and their dedicated patronage of art, allowed
for the development and flourishing of an innovative Ottoman aesthetic style that reflected
the cultural vitality of the Empire, said Dr. Denny.
Palace of Gold & Light: Treasures from the Topkapi, Istanbul will be divided into seven
curatorial sections, including: The Ruler and the Palace as a Focus of Dynastic Power; Court
Ceremony and Precious Objects; The Palace as the Residence for the Sultan and His Family;
The Role of Writing and Learning in the Palace; Foreign Gifts and Ottoman Collections; The
Palace as a Center of Military Administration; and The Ottoman Sultans as Religious Leaders.