Sabancı University’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum is located in Emirgan, at one of Istanbul’s oldest settlements on the Bosphorus.
In 1927, Prince Mehmed Ali Hasan of the Hidiv family of Egypt commissioned the Italian architect Edouard De Nari to build the villa, now the museum’s main building, and it was used as a summer house for many years by various members of the Hidiv family; for a short time it also served as the Montenegran Embassy.
After the mansion was purchased in 1950 by industrialist Hacı Ömer Sabancı from Princess Iffet, a member of the Hidiv family, as a summer residence, it came to be known as Atlı Köşk, “The Horse Mansion”, because of the statue of a horse (purchased in the same year) that was installed in the garden; the statue is the 1864 work of the French sculptor Louis Doumas.
A second horse sculpture on the grounds of Atlı Köşk that gave the mansion its name is the cast of one of the four horses taken from Sultanahmet square in Istanbul when it was looted by Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and removed to the Basilica of San Marco in Venice.
After the death of Hacı Ömer Sabancı in 1966, Atlı Köşk began to be used permanently as a home by Sakıp Sabancı in 1974 as the eldest of the family, and for many years housed Sakıp Sabancı’s rich collection of calligraphy and paintings. In 1998, together with its collection and furnishings, the mansion was allocated to Sabancı University to be transformed into a museum.
With the annex of a modern gallery, the exhibition areas of the museum opened to visitors in 2002; with a further extension of the layout in 2005, the technical level of the museum reached international standards.
Today Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum presents a versatile museological environment with its rich permanent collection, the comprehensive temporary exhibitions that it hosts, its conservation units, model educational programs and the various concerts, conferences and seminars held there.
The Arts of the Book and Calligraphy Collection
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). During the 1980s, the Sakıp Sabancı collection expanded with the purchase of private collections, and from 1989 onwards, the collection 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 was bequeathed by the Sabancı family to Sabancı University to be converted to a museum, and in 2002, the Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum opened to the public. The upper floor rooms of the mansion were transformed into galleries to exhibit Ottoman manuscripts and calligraphic compositions.
Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Calligraphy and the Arts of the Book Collection consists of illuminated Korans, prayer books, calligraphic albums and panels with Koranic verses, hadith and aphorisms, and illuminated documents bearing the tuğra (imperial cipher) of the Ottoman sultans.
The Sakıp Sabancı 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 is focused primarily on works created between 1850 and 1950, and in addition to works by Raphael and local artists such as Konstantin Kapıdağlı, Osman Hamdi Bey, Şeker Ahmed Paşa, Süleyman Seyyid, Nazmi Ziya Güran, İbrahim Çallı, Feyhaman Duran and Fikret Mualla, also includes the works of foreign artists like Fausto Zonaro and Ivan Ayvazovski.
SSM Painting Collection is temporarily closed to visit due to the ongoing “MACK. Just Light ve Colour” exhibition within the museum galleries. During this time, you can visit the collection online with the cooperation of Google Cultural Institute with the 360 degree tour application and view the artworks along with the information panels via its “Street View” feature.
Collection of Furniture and Decorative Arts
Three rooms on the entry level of the Atlı Köşk mansion are preserved with the furnishings and objects of decorative art of the 18th and 19th centuries that were in use during the period when the Sabancı Family resided there.
The primary mission of Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s conservation department is to maintain the integrity of the museum’s collection and make it accessible for future generations. Our conservation specialists prevent the decay of the nation’s cultural heritage, which in turn provides a valuable service for visitors and scientists alike.
The conservation department is responsible for the safe storage, display and registration of the museum’s artworks. In addition, the department is responsible for the conservation needs of any works loaned to the museum for temporary exhibitions hosted by Sakıp Sabancı Museum.
The museum conservators’ responsibilities also include:
Cleaning, consolidating and integrating of artworks
Providing guidance regarding correct packaging and handling of the artworks
Consulting with the exhibition designers on safe display of the artworks
Surveying the works on display and in storage
All of the cultural heritage assets within Sakıp Sabancı Museum are preserved by the rules of the international conservation policy. Climate, humidity and light levels are monitored 24 hours a day, and experts in preventative conservation are consulted regarding pest control, disaster/risk management and packing and handling.
The museum has its own paper conservation studio, and also cares for paintings, furniture and archeological, decorative and stone works, with the consultation of specialists in these fields.