The exhibition "Letters in Gold: Ottoman Calligraphy from the Sakıp Sabancı Collection, Instanbul" brings to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art seventy-one rare and beautiful calligraphies and illuminated manuscripts from the magnificent collection assembled by the prominent Turkish businessman and philanthropist Sakıp Sabancı. It is thanks to his generosity and enlightened initiative that these treasures are being shared for the first time with an international public. These remarkable pieces are usually housed in his private residence overlooking the Bosphorus.
Almost every major Ottoman calligrapher working in the fifteenth to the early twentieth century is represented in the Sabancı Collection by important examples of calligraphy. The manuscripts include exquisitely illuminated Qur'ans and prayer handbooks, elegant albums or murakkaalar composed of calligraphic exercises and often decorated with sumptuous marbled paper called ebrû, and spectacular, large-scale lettered compositions, called levhalar, which were framed and hung in mosques and homes. In addition, the exhibition displays eleven royal edicts, beautifully crafted scrolls topped by the tuğra, a sultan's imperial monogram. Fine, rich gold letters and delicate blue-and-gold illuminations demonstrate how the written word can be transformed into a work of art.
Sakıp Sabancı is justifiably proud of his Anatolian origins and of his father's modest beginnings in Adana, Turkey. He has devoted some of the profits of his company—now one of Turkey's largest industrial groups—toward building numerous schools and hospitals throughout the country.
Because Mr. Sabancı considers the Ottoman Empire's aesthetic traditions important and feels it imperative that they be preserved, he has assembled his extraordinary collection with a view toward sharing it with as large a public as possible. Toward that end The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are privileged to show to their visitors these high exemplars of Ottoman civilization.