Immortal Faces: from coins to sculptures of antiquity, a feast in Istanbul

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A new exhibition combines a collection of coins, from Lykians, the first minters of coins, to the Ottoman era and the Turkish Republic era, with Greek and Roman busts borrowed from Istanbul Archaeological Museums and the Sadberk Hanim Museum. As May 18 marks the International Museum Day, a museum in Istanbul put up a unique show, combining old coins and ancient sculptures in an art installation that embodies thousands of years of Greek, Roman and Ottoman history.

Coins from the Yapi Kredi Museum collection. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) Nihat Tekdemir, the curator of the exhibition titled «Immortal Faces» at the Yapi Kredi Museum, says that their collection is based on a wide range of coins, from the Lycians to antiquity’s Greek and Roman to pre-Ottoman beylik as well as Ottoman and Turkish Republic era coins.

A coin from a Hellenistic kingdom, Yapi Kredi Museum collection. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) The Yapi Kredi Museum , a private institution established in 1992, is collaborating with Istanbul Archaeological Museums and the Sadberk Hanim Museum for «Immortal Faces.»

The idea of the exhibition came about because the museum wanted to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Tekdemir explains.

Mangir, from the time period of Nasir al Din Mehmed, Danishmendis, copper. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) «At the same time, May 18, 2022 is International Museum Day as organised around the world by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) . This year’s theme is ‘The Power of Museums’,» Tekdemir tells TRT World . 

«To go along with this theme, we decided to collaborate with other museums for this exhibition.»

The relief depicts Heracles with the skin of the lion he has killed, making him invincible to his enemies. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) The museum wanted to create an exhibition that supported the coin collection with visages carved into marble as a reflection on visages imprinted on coins. With each step you take you are drawn into the intricate details on the ancient coins, primarily imprinted with rulers’ profiles, as you pass Greek and Roman busts.

A Roman bust from 1st century CE from Sadberk Hanim Museum. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) The exhibition consists of four main sections: «We display examples of Greek and Roman artistry in marble in the first section,» Tekdemir notes. «In the second section we focus on rulers; Greek kings and Roman emperors are our focus here, be they on coins or marble statues.»

A general view of the Immortal Faces exhibition. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) «The third section features gods and goddesses, that is, immortals. Here you can see the head of Hermes [the messenger god], the head of Aphrodite [the goddess of love], and the head of Dionysos [god of wine and ecstasy].»

The head of a statuette believed to be Aphrodite, the goddess of love. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) The fourth section, according to Tekdemir, is dedicated to heroes and monsters. «Here you can see the Greek hero Heracles [god of strength and heroes] and also Perseus [the slayer of monsters], through whom we visit the Medusa legend [a woman with venomous snakes in place for hair who would turn men who gazed into her eyes into stone].»

Merve Uca of Sadberk Hanim Museum tells TRT World that the museum contributed to the «Immortal Faces» exhibition with two artefacts: «One is a Roman copy of [ruler of Pergamon and founder of the Attalid dynasty] Philetaerus’ bust.»

A head from the Sadberk Hanim Museum collection that welcomes visitors to the Immortal Faces exhibition, dating back to 3rd century CE. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) «The other is a Roman sculpture of a head which a likeness thereof can be found in the Louvre Museum,» she says. «It is believed to be the head of a rhetor [a teacher of rhetoric in ancient Greece and Rome].» She notes that while we can determine his origin as a Roman individual from the way the hair is styled, there is no information as to who he might have been.

Uca says the Sadberk Hanim Museum was happy to help arrange for transportation and packaging and that she is pleased with the result; the exhibition that occupies the first floor of the Yapi Kredi Museum.

Tekdemir says the Yapi Kredi Museum is located centrally on Istiklal Street on Galatasaray Square, and that it is free to visit seven days a week. «Immortal Faces» will be on view until November 27, 2022.

Mythological family tree displaying the relations of deities («the immortals») of the Greek pantheon. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld) Source: TRT World AUTHOR Melis Alemdar melis_alemdar_ Melis Alemdar is a staff writer at TRT World.