Impressive propaganda in an immersive Turkish panorama painting

If you take a sharp turn westwards in Istanbul's Cağaloğlu neighborhood, to just past the old city wall, you'll find a curious museum dedicated to the conquest of the city, and from the very vantage point of that same ancient threshold you just crossed over. It's spectacular.

Before the main event, viewers are treated to a number of curios and paintings. I was partial to the ancient compass.

Photos: Natalie Dressed

And these depictions of Mecca as seemingly rendered by Herge.

The majority of the descriptions are in Turkish, and what little there is in English seems to have been translated verbatim by Google&Co into rather dense blocks of facts. Luckily, the historic point of panorama painting was to entertain the public visually. The written word was an afterthought. Panorama paintings were popular way back yesteryear when much of the population was having a tough time reading. So, much to the chagrin of critics who rallied against pure, unabashed spectacle, panoramas were designed to be as captivating and titlating as possible. Attendees at the 1453 museum can carry on the tradition of enjoying painting without understanding a word of Turkish.

Panorama paintings usually depict historical events or ye olde snapshots of life. Typically, the divide between the painting and the foreground is softened with sculptural elements. Istanbul's panorama, depicting Mehmet the Conqueror's 1453 capture of Constantinople, carries on this tradition marvelously with wanton cannons, castle debris and wagons littered about.

Remarkably, this is the first panorama painting to encompass the entirety of the dome structure it's housed in. At least, that's what I think the placard said. Usually, images like these end at a regular ole ceiling, but this one featured cloud cover upstairs (It was a beauitful sunny day inside) and an impressive modern use of vector mapping.

After absorbing the unlimited detail of the painting for 10 minutes, the lights dimmed and school groups and tourists alike were treated to a strange, impressive, overtly nationalistic depiction of the brave CGI Mehmet and his legions storming the wall and defeating the Byzantines. The Ottoman's success is depicted as a resounding cultural victory for modern Türkiye and intimately tied to the 100th anniversary of Ataturk's rule of the country. The blue-eyed, square-jawed fascimile of Türkiye's most photogenic leader in 3D was only a little unnerving, although I don't think that the 13 year-olds on their phones were as impressed seeing their former leader on the ceiling, a la Tupac at Coachella, as I was. The music swelled, Erdogan appeared, reminded everyone about the flag and how big and red it is, and then life on the permanent battlefield went on as usual.

We shuffled out back into Topkapi park and saw the very wall that Mehmet the Conqueror had conquered 20 minutes ago on the big 360 screen.

Visit the museum's website for more vague information like this,

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, to go on a long journey in history and remind us of the history of Istanbul living with us. In the Topkapı Culture Park where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was instrumental in the establishment of this dream, Mr. On the morning of May 29, 1453.

And to check their open hours. I also recommend buying a ticket in advance, as there was a huge discrepancy between the online and in-person price.

Flag-waving aside, the painting is a feat of artistic achievement and quite literally made my jaw drop. Enjoy!