If you find yourself in Istanbul this week I must insist that you visit Reyyan Somuncuoğlu's studio exhibit at the Adile Sultan Palace in Kandili, Üsküdar.
Several years ago I met Ms. Somuncuoğlu for a personal tour of the palace and to hear her talk about each of her paintings. It was one of the most magical experiences I've ever had in Istanbul.
She described how she spent months working with a historian to delve deep into the lives of women who had lived in the harem; including the wives, mothers and concubines of various sultans. After her research was complete, she swept it aside and began painting their stories.
As we walked the halls and climbed the palace staircases, Reyyan explained a particular series of paintings which depict four women who were both wives of sultans and who had also given birth to sons who became sultans. Ironically, all of them were also foreign-born women who had been strategically married into the Ottoman empire. They were the original Expat Harem*.
She went on to explain that although they lived hundreds of years apart, she had found a way to bring them together under one roof through this exhibit.
Even if you have no interest in the harem or its history, if you're fortunate enough to meet Reyyan Somuncuoğlu and have her intoxicate you with the stories of her paintings you will count yourself very lucky and I daresay you will not soon forget the experience.
Visit this page for more information on her studio exhibit which ends November 30th.
All images in this post were taken from Reyyan Somuncuoğlu's page at Lebriz where you can go to see more paintings in the exhibit.
But you really must see them in person.
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