Istanbul Archeological Museums

Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, is as we all know a modern yet ancient and historic city planted at the crossroads of East and West.

So it is not surprising, I guess, given its history and place, that the collection of antiquities held in the three institutions that make up Istanbul’s Archeological Museums is quite extraordinary – from tiled friezes that once graced the walls of Babylon, to ancient sculptures of such delicate humanity that what you see is not a general representation but the person himself, as in the figure below, which I kept coming back to.

This next, far more massive figure, from atop a column I imagine, though stylised and formal, still holds in the curve of the lips, the mouth, something human and identifiable – contrast, for example, with the flat and two-dimensional figures in the relief with chariot and horses, or the head of a man before that.

And lastly – look at the intense use of colour, in this frieze from Babylon – and look at that lion! Is that not the very ‘lion-ness’ of lions, in the ricture of his snarl, the bristling intensity of his pose!