Istanbul – “the pearl of the Orient” and “the city of all cities” – has inspired fascination and imagination for centuries. It was visited by Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and Alfred Hitchcock. The 1883 launch of the luxurious Orient Express brought a growing number of guests from all over the world. Today, the city has its greatest admirer in the Nobel Prize winning writer Orhan Pamuk, who provides an unmatched portrait of its mysterious melancholy.
What can we learn today from the history of Istanbul’s modernity recorded in old photographs? This bilingual Polish-English catalogue tells the story of the city’s increasingly European features at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, about its transformation into a modern metropolis, as well as about the consequences of these processes. It features more than 200 photographs and postcards from Istanbul’s Pera Museum collection, which amounts to over seven thousand pictures. The publication in complemented by reproductions of art works by Jan Matejko, Kazimierz Pochwalski, Marian Mokwa, Jan Ciągliński, and the court painter of Sultan Abdülaziz – Stanisław Poraj Chlebowski, all of whom were charmed by the exceptional beauty of the city on the meeting point of two continents.
The catalogue features also Piotr Nykiel’s extensive essay on the Turkish route towards modernity, and Bahattin Öztuncay’s essay on the origins and development of photography in Istanbul. Of particular interest is Beata Nykiel’s text on the forgotten Krakow family of Henryk and Ludwika Groppler, whose Bosphorus-based home housed a “cultural embassy” that supported Polish artists visiting Istanbul, including Mickiewicz, Matejko, Styka, Sienkiewicz, and others.