Colors of the Orient, Arts and lifestyles in the Ottoman Empire
18 November 2010 – 27 February 2011

From the 18th of November 2010 until the 27th of February 2011, the Boghossian Foundation will present, in the salons and on the several levels of the Villa Empain, an exhibition which underlines the richness of the cultural inheritance transmitted by the Ottoman Empire, since the XVth Century until the beginning of the XIXth Century.

Entitled, Colors of the Orient, Arts and lifestyles in the Ottoman Empire, this exhibition highlights the diversity of arts inspired by multiple influences which, for Centuries, have given a prestigious splendor to this fascinating Empire.

The Ottoman world built itself an Empire, influenced at the same time by the East and the West. From their modest debuts in the XIVth Century and long before acquiring the complete control of Anatolia, the Ottomans assimilated certain values of the Greek, Bulgarian and Armenian cultures. Before the taking of Constantinople in 1453, they inherited wealth from the Byzantine civilization, which they did not destroy but much rather integrated, by adding their traditions from Central Asian civilizations, allied to the refinement of the Islam. Thus, on the crossroads of the East and the West, the Ottomans elaborated, from the XVth Century, an original artistic language, a common directory and declined all their decorative arts.

The later phases of the artistic and artisanal creation in the Ottoman Empire permanently reflect this variety of inspiration, not as a coexistence of conflicting elements, but as a synthesis offering a specific identity.

Endowed with a strong craft, organized in powerfully structured corporations, the Ottoman Empire implemented big centers of creation for manufactured objects. The orders by the Imperial Palace and the export of quality products to the most distant countries (China, Europe) were, for Centuries, a considerable source of income. Bronze-smelters, miniaturists, ceramists, weavers, brass-, ivory-, leather- and glass-workers, held an important place in the economic and social life of the Empire.

In order to show the evolution and the blooming of the arts of the Ottoman Empire, since their Byzantine roots, this exhibition proposes a selection of about 300 creations and objects through a route which follows the timeline and emphasizes the richest periods.

The exhibited works distinguish themselves, not only by the splendor of the used materials, but also by the invention, the refinement and the know-how of the artists and craftsmen who created them. Furthermore, as the title of the exhibition indicates, the arts of the Ottoman Empire ceaselessly sought colors, whether through textiles and carpets, miniatures and paintings, calligraphy or ceramics.

The long period approached in this exhibition, from the XVIth to the XIXth Century, testifies how the Ottoman civilization assimilated the contributions of its conquests and how the artistic production, which characterizes it, gradually won in depth and refinement. The XVIIIth Century constitutes the summit of this evolution, while simultaneously the European influences are outlined; the basis of the opening to the West to which the Empire will commit from the XIXth century.

The exhibition Colors of the Orient, Arts and lifestyle in the Ottoman Empire reunites numerous art pieces and objects from several Belgian and foreign collections, such as :

The Treasure of the Cathedral of Liege,
The Institut du Mond Arabe in Paris,
The Collection Marcel and Zaïra Mis (Brussels),
And other private collectors who wish to remain anonymous.

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The main addressed themes

The inheritance of Byzantium and Constantinople
The influence and wealth of the various cultures of the Empire
Calligraphie and miniatures
Textiles and Embroidery (silk trades, velvet, brocade)
Ceramics of Iznik and Kuthaya
Cabinetmaking and marquetry
The life under the influence of the Great lord
The world of harems
The luxury and the pleasures (music, hammam, coffee and tobacco, culinary art)
The influence from Europe from the XVIIIth Century
Orientalism through the discovery of the Ottoman Empire by the Western artists
Orientalism of Eastern artists

Thanks to

The Boghossian Foundation would like to thank all those who contributed to the implementation of this exhibition, mainly

Mister Edhem Eldem, Mister Eric Grunberg, Mister Frédéric Hitzel, Misses Dora Janssen, Mister and Misses Marcel Mis, Mister Alexis Renard, Mister Nick Shaw, And all the lenders who wish to remain anonymous


For this exhibition, the Boghossian Foundation will publish a catalogue (112 pages, 80 illustrations), in English and French.