Everybody has heard of the Topkapi Saray collection of Chinese porcelain in Istanbul but few are aware of the Sadberk Hanim Museum . . . the what, you may ask? Indeed, situated in a an elegant private house on The Bosphorus, rather nearer the Black Sea than the cosmopolitan Turkish city of Istanbul (formerly fabled Constantinople), it is Turkey’s very first private museum, built on a fabulous fortune.
Recently, we were able to visit and look at the remarkable collection of Chinese export porcelain held there. Altogether, there are around 180 pieces of Chinese porcelain. The areas of collecting are particularly strong in kraak ware, early celadon, blue and white and famille verte.
A general view of some of the 180 Chinese exhibits at The Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul Photo Paul Harris
Vehbi Koç Foundation’s Sadberk Hanım Museum is indeed Turkey’s first private museum intended to exhibit the private collection of Sadberk Koç, the wife of Vehbi Koç. The Museum was opened on 14 October 1980 at a building called the Azaryan Mansion in Sarıyer-Büyükdere.
The Azaryan Mansion which houses the Sadberk Hanim Museum
The Azaryan Mansion was built at the end of the 19th century and was purchased by the Koç family in 1950. It was used as the family’s summer retreat until they decided to convert the building into a museum in 1978. Between 1978-80, the building was subjected to a restoration project by Sedat Hakkı Eldem and was converted into a museum. The Koc family is probably best known internationally as the owners of the Beko white goods empire.
The museum’s collection initially consisted of the private collection of Sadberk Koç, which included traditional costumes, embroidery, silver artefacts with “tuğra” and porcelain and suchlike artefacts, and in due course was augmented with donations and purchases. Following the demise of Hüseyin Kocabaş, one of the greatest collectors of Turkey, his collection was also added to the Sadberk Hanım Museum’s Collection. In 1983, Vehbi Koç Foundation decided to purchase the neighbouring mansion that is believed to have been built around the beginning of the 20th century to accommodate the Hüseyin Kocabaş Collection and the mansion’s facade was restored in the original style.
16th & 17th century blue and white porcelain Photo Paul Harris
Whilst at the time of its foundation Sadberk Hanım Museum contained 3.000 pieces, at present, the inventory has reached more than 18.000 artefacts in its collection. Archaeological relics belonging to Anatolian civilisation from 6th millennium B.C. till the end of the Byzantines are housed in the Sevgi Gönül Building. Islamic artefacts with Ottoman emphasis, European, Far Eastern and Near Eastern artefacts that were produced for the Ottomans, woven textiles from the Ottoman era, garments and embroideries are being exhibited in the Azaryan Building. The important collection of Chinese porcelain reflects both the influence of the Silk Road trading links over the centuries as well as the well developed taste of the Ottoman Sultans.