Amanda Phillips / Art 

My Mead Endowment Dream Idea unfolds during the autumn semester 2019, taking students on an odyssey through the art and architecture of one of the world’s most historical, fascinating, and multicultural cities: Istanbul. The course starts with a focus on the Ottoman Sultans, who made old Constantinople their new capital in 1453. Their palace, the Topkapı Sarayı, at once promoted and reflected the rulers’ ideologies and hierarchies. The pilot episode of the popular Turkish soap opera, Muhteşem Yüzyil—based on the life of Sultan Süleyman I (r. 1520-66)—introduces students to the lived spaces of the palace and to its residents, which included bureaucrats, princes, cooks, slaves, and artists. It follows their (fictionalized) routines, showing how both their professional roles and personal lives were shaped by its structures. Using the drama to stimulate our historical imaginations, we’ll also read about how the palace was a major sponsor of art and craft, commissioning everything from illustrated histories and Qurans to luxury textiles, incense burners, and ceramics. Students will each take the role of a historical character, discussing how her or his experience is circumscribed by architecture and how she or he might have played roles as creators or sponsors of art. Second, in aid of envisioning and tasting daily life among the elites, students will recreate dishes based on sixteenth-century recipes preserved in palace archives and use ingredients from around the world to make a meal fit for a Sultan.


The journey continues in the second half of the semester, shifting to focus on art and architecture in the city. The Freer-Sackler galleries in Washington D.C. have on exhibition several Ottoman silks, which we will use to jump-start discussions about how weavers and other workers responded to global fashions, as well as to regulations imposed by the authorities, volatility in supplies, and larger economic crises. We’ll spend a day there in mid-October, also meeting with museum colleagues to discuss strategies of display for objects that are not masterpieces, but rather quotidian objects. This links to the penultimate topic of the course, about how Ottoman subjects used arts and crafts in their own lives and how collective tastes were created. The semester wraps up with a second dinner, in Week Twelve, in this case considering culinary traditions outside the palace. The art and objects of dining—such as linens, glassware, ceramics, and cutlery—used by different subjects might be similar, but the recipes that comprise Ottoman cuisine are in fact drawn from a number of traditions: Armenian, Greek, Sephardic, Turkish, and Kurdish. Students will prepare dishes linked with these groups, and we will meet to sample them and to discuss the multi-ethnic nature of the city, the art and architecture of its many communities, and the fate of churches, synagogues, and other historical monuments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Budget, projected for an enrollment of ten students and one instructor

Snacks during screening of Muhteşem Yüzyil: 11 x $10 = $110

(Ottoman-style coffee, baklava, pistachios, almonds, home-made şerbet)

Ingredients and other elements for Dinner One: 11 x $50 = $550*

Trip to Freer-Sackler Galleries, Washington (Albemarle Limousine): $989

Lunch in Washington: 11 x $20 = $220

Ingredients and other elements for Dinner Two: 11 x $50 = $550*

Snacks for last day of class, during reflection on course and Dream Idea: 11 x $10 = $110

(Ottoman-style coffee, künefe from Sultan Kebab, hoşab from Istanbul)


*These estimates are purposefully high because some of the recipes may require special orders, equipment, etc. Actual costs may be significantly lower.


Total: $2639