Friday, March 30, 2012

Going Dutch in Istanbul

"Wager cup with hunting scenes
and allegorical tableaux," c. 1642-44,
Unknown artist, Rijksmuseum
Is it so wrong that my favorite thing about the exhibit of Dutch Masters currently on view at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum wasn't a painting by Rembrandt or Vermeer, but instead a silver windmill cup used for 17th-century drinking games?

As if the idea of trying to chug-a-lug the entire glass before the little windmill's blades stopped turning wasn't entertaining enough, the cup -- aptly known as a "drink-up" -- is displayed alongside paintings and drawings of poor Dutch souls who failed to hold their liquor. Depicting fat, slovenly, and lecherous figures, these types of pictures were the PSAs of their time, according to the exhibit text, which explained that they were meant to show the dangers of drinking too much.

The pairing of paintings with objects depicted in or related to them is one of the clever touches in the fine, but otherwise mostly unsurprising "Rembrandt and His Contemporaries" exhibit, which brings together more than 100 works from the "Golden Age" of Dutch art. Alongside the expected range of stern portraits, dramatically lit still lives, and gorgeously rendered landscapes, the decidedly modernist-looking "The Golden Bend in the Herengracht in Amsterdam" stands out, its crisp, spare composition seemingly a couple of hundred years ahead of its time.

"The Golden Bend in the Herengracht in Amsterdam,"
1671-72, Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde, Rijksmuseum
The museum's free audio guide offers some useful interpretative tips (who knew a painting of a ship at sea on a wall was an "instantly recognizable" symbol of romantic passion?) while occasionally lapsing into condescending platitudes. (I can decide whether I think the ducks on the pond add a charming detail or not, thanks.)

The Sabancı's Rembrandt exhibit is just one of the many Dutch-themed art shows that have been popping up around town like so many spring tulips, part of a commemoration of 400 years of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands. (Or, as they were known back then, between the Ottoman Empire and the Dutch Republic of the United Provinces.)

Unknown painter,
17th century,
Pera Museum
The trade relationship embarked on in 1612 sparked, among other things, the Dutch mania for tulips, a wild flower in Central Asia that was cultivated in the sultan's gardens in Istanbul and features in one section of "Sultans, Merchants, Painters: The Early Years of Turkish - Dutch Relations," another anniversary exhibit, this one at the Pera Museum. In the text accompanying a lovely set of tulip drawings, the museum's curators note that "the famous motifs seen on 17th century tulip leaves" are now known to have been "caused by a viral infection." Talk about bursting one's bubble.

TO VISIT: The "Rembrandt and His Contemporaries" exhibit is on display until June 10 at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul's Emirgan neighborhood. The museum is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. General admission is 12 Turkish Liras.

The "Sultans, Merchants, Painters" exhibit ends this Sunday, April 1, at the Pera Museum in the Beyoğlu district. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. General admission is 10 Turkish Liras.

1 comment:

Aynur Khan said...

Another great read, amazing articles Jennifer, congrats.