The Stunning Rugs at the Carpet Museum in Istanbul
The impressive Istanbul Carpet Museum, located within the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, is home to some of the greatest textile masterpieces from the 14th through 19th centuries. The museum has been around for over 40 years and wows visitors every day with its impressive and expansive collection. Let’s take a look at what makes the Istanbul Carpet Museum so spectacular.
History of the Istanbul Carpet Museum
Originally, the museum was housed in Hunkar Kasri, a small palace built in conjunction with Sultan Ahmet Mosque. It was built in the early 1600s for the sultan to rest before and after prayer at the mosque. However, it was quickly deemed unfit to display the carpet collection, and the museum was relocated.
The beautiful carpet museum now resides in what was originally the Almhouse of Hagia Sophia. The Almhouse was a soup kitchen commissioned by Sultan Mahmud I in 1743. In those days it was used to distribute meals to the poor and orphans, but now it is where people gather to converse and enjoy the history. It was first opened to the public as a museum in April of 1979. The museum is actually quite close to the Topkapi Palace Museum, another well known Turkish museum containing beautiful antique carpets.
Exploring the Beautiful Istanbul Carpet Museum
Visitors to the museum are first greeted by a beautiful open courtyard before entering the museum itself. Upon entering the museum, there are different rooms that break up the museum’s collection. The first gallery was originally the dining room of the Almhouse and contains rugs from the 14th and 15th century. These beautiful rugs are, naturally, the most damaged, but still enduringly impressive.
The second gallery was once the kitchen, and it contains Anatolian carpets from the 15th through 20th centuries. Many of these Ottoman era carpets were once displayed in mosques. The third gallery was the original bakery. This gallery holds the museum’s largest carpets. Some of the pieces even stretch from the floor all the way up to the ceiling where they’re hung.
There is also another, fourth small room connected to the museum that contains a selection of a few smaller carpets from Anatolia.
Istanbul’s Carpet Museum is well built to preserve the ancient art pieces inside. The building itself has been restored many times to stay modern and functional. To get from one hall to another, visitors pass through electronically controlled double doors that maintain the right climate and environment to preserve the centuries-old carpets inside.
The museum, which has a collection of over 800 antique pieces, has some interesting supplemental materials beyond the carpets themselves. There is a large board showing the motifs that are common in the rugs and explaining what each one means. There are also illustrations of famous Western paintings depicting Oriental carpets across many eras. The museum is high tech, as well.
Jean Leon Gerome’s 1887 Orientalist rug bazaar painting, The Carpet Market, is displayed blown up to life size and animated so that it feels real. The floor in the third gallery of the museum contains a panel that, when walked over, gradually electronically produces the image of a carpet. The museum is interactive and interesting for all who attend.
Now that you know all about the Istanbul Carpet Museum, you’re probably itching to plan a visit. If you can’t make it to Istanbul right now, we’ve put together some of our favorite gorgeous Turkish carpets to hold you over until you can plan a trip.
Here are some beautiful Turkish rugs from the Nazmiyal Collection:
This rug blog about the Istanbul Carpet Museum was published by Nazmiyal.