Esin Atil

Esin Atil received her first B.A. in literature and drama, and her second B.A. in applied arts and art history. She attended the graduate program of the University of Michigan, where she received her M.A. in European art and her Ph.D. in Islamic art. In 1970, Dr. Atil joined the Smithsonian Institution as the Curator of Islamic Art at the Freer Gallery of Art, a post which she held for fifteen years. She later served as Historian of Islamic Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, two Smithsonian museums devoted to Asian art. After her retirement in 1993, she was appointed Research Associate at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and National Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Atil has organized numerous exhibitions and published close to twenty books on the artistic traditions of the Islamic world, the subjects of which range from studies on manuscripts, ceramics, and metalwork, to surveys of Mamluk and Ottoman art. The first exhibitions she organized and wrote catalogues for were: 2500 Years of Persian Art (1971), Turkish Art of the Ottoman Period (1973), Ceramics from the World of Islam (1974), and Art of the Arab World (1975). Her subsequent major exhibitions and related publications include Brush of the Masters: Drawings from Iran and India (1978); Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks and Kalila wa Dimna: Fables from a Fourteenth-Century Arabic Manuscript (both 1981); and Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art (1986).

Between 1985 and 1987, Dr. Atil was Guest Curator at the National Gallery of Art, where she published the Suleymanname: The Illustrated History of Suleyman the Magnificent (1986); as well as The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1987), to accompany the traveling exhibition of the same title, which she organized. In 1987 she received the Grand Award for Culture and Art from the President of Turkey and the Medal of Honor from the Assembly of Turkish American Associations for her work on this exhibition; the same year she was awarded honorary doctorates from the Bogazici and Karadeniz Universities.

Dr. Atil served as Guest Curator of the exhibition Islamic Art and Patronage: Treasures from Kuwait, which was shown in the United States in 1990-92, then toured Europe; she was also the editor of the volume with the same title, which was translated into French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and Arabic. Her latest publications include Images of Imperial Istanbul, a facsimile of sixteenth-century panoramic views (1993); and chapters on “The Ottoman World in the Nineteenth-Century” in Voyages and Visions and “The Arts of Islam” in the Muslim Almanac (both 1995). After conducting extensive research on the figural imagery of the social, political, and economic milieu of the Ottoman world as observed in an illustrated manuscript, which she published in facsimile as Levni and the Surname: The Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Festival (1999).

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