Step Back into a Different Istanbul

Pera Museum is not just an art exhibition. Here you can step back in time to the Ottoman Empire and learn how the people of this ancient Turkish culture once lived.  

Bringing to life the fascinating history which has shaped Istanbul and indeed the whole of Turkey, Pera Museum combines paintings and artefacts from centuries past. See for yourself how aristocrats of the Ottoman Empire lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. Explore tools that were used in everyday life, and marvel the fantastic collection of vibrant ceramics that were present in everyday homes in the 18th to 20th centuries.

From Hotel to Museum

Formally a hotel, the building was renovated extensively and Pera Museum officially opened its doors in 2005. The façade of the building, from 1893, remains in the original style, but has been given a more contemporary look, to suit the feel of the exhibitions inside. The result of this work is a credit to architect Sianan Genim. This privately owned museum, founded by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, spans seven floors of inspirational artworks. In total, there are three permanent exhibitions combined with alternating temporary exhibits.

Intersecting Worlds: Ambassadors and Painters

This unique collection is inspired by the Ottoman Empire, which was thought to be one of the most powerful in the world during the 16th and 17th centuries. From each picture you can get an idea of the diplomatic history of Istanbul, see how people of that time carried themselves and the vibrant clothing they wore. Unique visual representations of the ambassadors’ looks and personalities shine through in the artist impressions. Each room is colourfully painted to compliment the artwork on display. Major international art works include that of Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, and many more.

The Tortoise Trainer

Perhaps the most famous item in the collection is ‘The Tortoise Trainer’ by Osman Hamdi. It is said that to fully understand the Turkish mind set, you must see this painting. The portrait symbolises the difficulties in bringing about change to a society, and the patience required. The five tortoises represent the stubborn resistant society. The trainer, Osman Hamdi himself, symbolises the attempt to slowly bring around this change by using a musical instrument to encourage the tortoises. Unfortunately, his attempts are in vein as they cannot hear him and therefore do not respond. Read more about this fascinating interpretation.

This significance of this magnificent piece of art was not recognised until more recent times. It was, in fact, sold at auction in 2004 for a massive $3.5 million, the highest amount ever paid for a Turkish painting.

Weights and Measures of the Past

Considering the advanced tools and methods used today, it is hard to imagine a time when they weren’t available. The sheer size of the Anatolian Weights and Measures collection will impress you, with over 8,000 artefacts. These items span over centuries, giving unique insights to how the world has developed. This is the most exceptional of its kind in the country and will leave you contemplating how life has changed.

Vibrant Ceramics

With a sheer abundance of clay available in the mountainous and agricultural city of Kütahya, it has, for many centuries, been famous for its ceramics. To this day, traditional techniques are still practiced.  In the Kütahya Tiles and Ceramics exhibition more than 800 pieces, dated between the 18th and 20th century, are on display. Since it was established in 1980, the collection has grown massively. This has given the museum a tough job when choosing the best pieces to represent these vibrant ceramics.

You will find Pera Museum in the charming historic quarter of the city, Tepebaşı. The best thing is that it can be found just minutes from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera. Regardless of what type of art form you are passionate about, do not miss the chance to be taken on an incredible journey into Istanbul’s past.

What would you most like to see at Pera Museum?

Tell us what you think