Topkapi Palace Museum Houses Collection of Some Of The Rarest Antique Rugs in the World
If you are planning a trip to Istanbul Turkey and you love antique Oriental carpets, the Topkapi Palace Museum has a collection that you do not want to miss. A visit to the collection of antique rugs at Topkapi Palace Museum is like stepping back in time. It has one of the most extensive collections of textiles and carpets in the world. The museum houses some of the finest examples of Ottoman Empire textile art dating from the second half of the fifteenth century to the early 20th century.
The Topkapi Palace Museum History
When you visit the Topkapi museum, you are not just visiting a building. The collection of antique Oriental rugs is housed in the Hagia Sophia, which is part of the Topkapi Palace Museum complex. The Topkapi Palace served as the principal residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans in the 15th century. The Topkapi Palace, “Topkapi Sarayi”, began construction in 1459 under the rule of Mehmed the Conquerer. It was constructed six years after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.
Throughout the centuries, the building has undergone many expansions, damage from earthquakes, and numerous alterations. Now, it makes the perfect setting for a display of the most extensive collection of Ottoman Empire carpets and artifacts in the world.
At Topkapi Palace, you can examine early carpets and an extensive collection of miniatures displayed in a way that is similar to their original environment. Many of them were made to be used in a building similar to the one in which they are being displayed. Even though many other museums have an extensive antique rug collection, the one that Topkapi has some of the rarest carpets in the world. It is a great place to explore the history of carpets and see firsthand the treasures of the Ottoman Empire. Topkapi is one of the only places where you can see rare antique carpets like these.
Topkapi Palace itself has an extensive set of courtyards and smaller palaces at the site. It is the perfect place to get an idea of what life was like for the Ottoman rulers and aristocrats. It sets the stage for understanding the extraordinary carpets that we have in the world today and their place in society. The impressive gate gives you a sense of the massive scale of the Palace. It also gives you an idea of how large the carpets were that are depicted in the Ottoman Empire miniatures. The entire structure and grounds were constructed to create a sense of awe, and it still has the ability to do this in visitors today.
The Topkapi Palace Museum Rug Collection
The carpet collection is not housed in the main museum itself but resides at the Hagia Sophia, or Byzantine Church of the Holy Wisdom. This building is within the palace complex and is located only a short distance from the main Palace. The antique carpets are kept in an environmentally controlled building for preservation purposes.
The exhibit changes regularly, but you can typically find rare pieces dating from as far back as the 14th century through the early 1900’s near the end of the Ottoman Empire. It is an excellent collection for historians and those who want to increase their carpet knowledge. Even for those who are only mildly interested in the historical aspect, the pieces on display are magnificent works of rare antique textile art. They offer a perspective of what is possible in carpet weaving as an art form.
Experiencing The Rugs Of The Topkapi Palace Museum
The Hagia Sophia was built between 1742 and 1743 by Sultan Mahmud I. It was initially created as a soup kitchen for the poor. The collection contains approximately 806 carpets, of which 394 are considered world heritage artifacts. Typically only about 40 to 50 carpets are on display at one time, representing the rarest pieces in the collection. They are rotated from time to time.
The entrance to the museum’s antique carpet collection is located on the northeast corner of Hagia Sophia at Sogukçesme Street. You enter the museum through a beautiful baroque style gate to enter a courtyard. This courtyard was once the Almshouse of Hagia Sophia, where food was distributed to orphans and the poor. The Topaki museum is divided into several different galleries, each of which centers around a different theme.
The first gallery was once a dining room and has on display the rarest and oldest rugs of the Ottoman empire. These beautiful carpets date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, with the most well-known being from Oushak. Many of the carpets in this gallery are heavily damaged, but they are still impressive. The carpets in this collection demonstrate the earliest development of traditional motifs that would be used for the next several hundred years.
The second gallery was once the kitchen and contains carpets from Central and Eastern Anatolia. The carpets date from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Many of the carpets in this collection are significant because they were used in the Divrigi Great Mosque. Moving from the carpets in the first gallery into the carpets in the second gallery, you can see the development of the medallion motif and growing complexity in the borders. You also begin to see the prayer mihrab motif in greater frequency. This reflects the greater importance of religion in the Ottoman Empire.
The third gallery was once the bakery and displays the largest and most stunning of the Oushak carpets. Many of them reach from the floor to the ceiling and once occupied the Suleiman Mosque and Blue Mosque. The massive scale of these carpets is something to behold. In this building, you can also see the massive ovens from when it was a large scale bakery.
The fourth gallery is the smallest one and contains smaller carpets from throughout Turkey / Anatolia. It also has a collection of kilims on display too. This collection holds beautiful examples of some of the traditional designs that you see throughout Anatolia from the 15th to 20th centuries. The range of colors and designs creates a breathtaking display.
Visiting the Topkapi Palace Museum Collection
When visiting the collection, it is suggested that you get a museum pass that allows you to see 11 different museums within a 120 hour period. While you are visiting the carpet collection at Hagia Sophia, you may also enjoy some of the older Seljuk Carpets on display at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, also within a short distance of Topkapi Palace. An All-Turkey Pass is an even better way to travel, as it gives you admission to over 300 museums. These packages are considerably cheaper than purchasing the admission tickets separately. Please be aware that the collection is closed on Mondays so plan your trip accordingly.
Feel free to search our rugs online, as we have an excellent selection of Ottoman Empire and Anatolian carpets that you can display in your own home or office. Sometimes, we have the chance to offer an exquisite museum-quality piece, so be sure to check back often. The best thing is that instead of just looking at them, you can own one of these treasures for yourself.
Check out some of our favorite antique Turkish rugs and textiles from the Nazmiyal Collection:
This rug blog about the rare antique rugs of the Topkapi Palace Museum collection was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rug Gallery in NYC.
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