museum review - 'A Journey into the World of the Ottomans'

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Until January 24, 2011, the Orientalist Museum of Qatar will be running the landmark exhibition titled ‘A Journey into the World of the Ottomans’, organised as a part of the Qatar Museums Authority’s activities celebrating Doha as the Arab Capital of Culture 2010.

The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to explore the visions and impressions of orientalist artists, and traces the development of this art movement, displaying the museum’s own collection of artworks by artists such as Bernardino Campi, Jacopo Ligozzi, Jean-Baptiste Hilaire, Jean-Baptiste Van Mour, and Jean-Étienne Liotard. Along with a major loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, visitors have the opportunity to admire the works of contemporary artists Vanessa Hodgkinson and Bas Princen.

The collected artworks exhibited are grouped into seven thematic clusters: the Capital, the Portrait, the Artist, the History, the City, the Citizens, and the Present.

In the Capital section, artworks will focus on the historical significance of the ‘city of the world’s desire’: majestic Istanbul. Exploring all the details and nuances of the Ottoman capital the artists engaged in a subtle exploration and their visions, whether based on imagination, others’ travel records, or personal impressions of the city.

The Portrait section presents selected works executed between the 16th and 18th centuries, the period that witnessed grand portraits from the workshops of Giovanni Bellini and Titian, and the refined and delicate works of Liotard and Hilaire.

The Artist is dedicated to fine art master Jean-Baptiste van Mour. As artist-biographer and eyewitness of the 18th-century Ottoman Empire, he left a unique legacy of pictorial evidence that can be considered historically accurate illustrations of Ottoman life during that period.

The History section of artworks represents visual records of Ottoman empire life through the centuries, as the artists were not only recording current events but also expressing moral and philosophical messages of the time.

The artworks presented in two separate rooms, the City and the Citizens, combine orientalist representations from the 18th, 19th, and 21st centuries, illustrated by the works of Bas Princen and Vanessa Hodgkinson.

In the last exhibition room, the Present, visitors can explore present-day Istanbul, a city renowned for the extraordinary beauty of its architecture, its complex nature and volatile history, fantastic cultural treasures, and dynamic realities. This captivating film explores both the past and the present of the World of the Ottomans, utilising fine arts records of its glory to provide the subject for a riveting documentary.

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