The Lion House & The Horse MansionLion Mansion

In the 1942s we moved into another house on the same street as our old Adana style, two story, brick and mortar house. This new house was bigger and fancier. It was apparently owned by someone of non-Turkish origins. As it was painted in pink it was known as the “Pink Mansion”. Later on the Pink Mansion became to be known as the Lion Mansion because of a lion statue placed in the garden. In those years my father`s financial resources were limited and it was very shocking for us to see him spending money to buy a lion statue, working on moving it into the garden, and keeping an eye on every detail until it was put into its place in the garden– while he couldn’t even find the time to sit down for a minute until evening because he was so very involved with the cotton trade. But I guess my father’s interest in the lion statue must have had a huge impact on us: I still find great pleasure today in putting aside time to collect art works. In the first floor of the new house we had a dining room, living room, and kitchen. The bedrooms were upstairs. We had beds for the first time in our lives in this house. We started to take our meals at a table. There would be plates and forks and spoons for each of us on the table. About 5 – 6 years later, an engineer named Zekai Kocak expanded this house a little bit towards the garden. He added four other bedrooms. Before the renovation I used to share a room with my five brothers. After the construction of the new bedrooms, there was one room for two. I shared the same room with my brother Haci. When we first moved into the Pink House, my dad bought a radio. We would listen to it all the time. Actually we had a very interesting radio adventure in Akcakaya. Either my dad or Bey Amca brought a radio to our house in Akcakaya. They tried charging the battery by tying an old bicycle to a tree and spinning the wheel. They failed. Then they attempted to charge it by means of a fan they placed on top of a poplar tree. The radio worked perfunctorily. When a strong wind broke our fan, the radio fell silent and we were very disappointed. This was the only radio in the village. The villagers would gather around the radio and try to get the latest news about WWII. Playing football was my major passion when I was a child. In Adana I would play football with our neighbor Defterdar`s son Ayhan who was living in a house we called “the pavilion” built by the French. There was an old pool in the garden. One day I hit my forehead at the fountain of the pool when I fell while playing football. I had a huge wound over my eyebrow. It bled for hours. I still have the scar.

Fotoğraf Sakıp Sabancı Arşivi
The Horse Mansion

My father, like the Anatolian man he was, began to invest some of his wealth in real estate. In Anatolian tradition, to turn some of one’s wealth into an investment, by buying gold and real estate, means to some extent guaranteeing the future of the family against the ups and downs of life. Father’s desire to acquire a property in Istanbul surfaced in 1949. He began saying, “We’re going to Istanbul all the time. Let’s buy a fairly big house there. We’ll go there in summer with the family.” The first port of call for those coming from Anatolia to Istanbul, especially those devotees of the narghile, is Emirgan. To smoke a bubbling narghile, a hookah, and drink a glass of fresh-brewed tea in the shade of the centuries-old plane trees at Emirgan while looking at the blue waters of the Bosphorus is, for those who come from Anatolia, Istanbul’s most attractive aspect. My father, after he too had smoked the narghile at Emirgan, took Mother and me along and began looking for houses that were up for sale. We were taken to the house of someone called Muhlis Bey, a house of modern construction which I particularly liked. One day an estate agent, Mr. Hummos, took us to the mansion in Emirgan which we own today. It was the home of Princess Iffet, a granddaughter of the Khedive (Viceroy) Ismail Pasha and so a descendant of Mohammed Ali Pasha of Kavalla. Iffet had put the mansion up for sale because of the excessive cost of maintaining it and the gardens, maybe also because she wanted to live abroad. Father bought the mansion for TL 302,000. I remember the advice he gave me when I asked why we didn’t buy Muhlis Bey’s house. ‘The garden of Muhlis Bey’s house is 3,000 square meters, but the garden of this mansion is 22,000. A big place, a big piece of land, is always a good thing. More rain falls on a big piece of land. A big house too is a good thing. When you start a business, start it big. A family should be big. When you run something big, your profits too will be big.’ Then he went on, ‘The only thing you shouldn’t let grow big is your nose.’’ That advice must have affected me a lot, because from that day on I have liked big things and have grown accustomed to thinking big. The house we bought at Emirgan in 1949 had been built in the Baroque style by Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. When the news spread in Adana that my father had bought a house in Emirgan for TL302,000, Nuri Has, his partner of the time, said to me, ‘Your father evidently has no sense. It would have been cheaper to take a permanent lease on a suite in the Park Hotel in Istanbul.’ But time proved Father right. Even today the Emirgan mansion still constitutes one of the Sabancı family’s most valuable assets. The horse statues and the others were erected in the garden later. My father bought and installed the horse statues. I bought the other bronze and marble statues, including the large Bedouin figures made in Berlin in 1899, as well as the fountains. We bought the mansion furnished from Princess İffet. In it were furniture, porcelain, large vases, and chandeliers brought in various periods from Europe. Undoubtedly it was these pieces that amused my father’s interest in antiques. As the 1950s wore on, his sole occupation in Istanbul was to wander round antique shops. The famous antique dealers of the day, Lutfi Sevsevil Bey, Gurkiya the Caucasian, Rıza Bey, Behar, and Aret Portakal became Father’s closest friends. He used to go round the shops and ask, “Got anything of interest to me?” He collected chandeliers, vases, oil paintings by European artists, trinkets, bibelots and statues, and brought them to the mansion at Emirgan.

  • Former President of the USA Jimmy Carter and his wife
  • Prince Albert of Belgium who came to the Horse Mansion to present the Order of the Kingdom of Belgium to Sakip Sabanci
  • The former Minister of External Affairs George Schultz who visited the Horse Mansion after the dinner in his honor organized by TÜSİAD (the Association of Turkish Industrialists and Business People)
  • The former Prime Minister of Singapore H.E. Lee Kuan Yew and his wife
  • The former Prime Minister of France Raymond Barre
  • The former Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs of France Couve de Murville
  • The former President of Toyota Mr. Shoichiro Hiroko Toyoda who came to Turkey for the groundbreaking ceremony of Toyotasa
  • The former President of Mitsubishi Corporation Tate and his wife who were hosted in the Horse Mansion for dinner organized in their honor
  • The former President of Toyota Motor Corporation Hiroshi Okuda and his wife
  • The former President of the People`s Republic of China Zhao Xiang visited the Horse Mansion on the 19th of July, 1986
  • Former USA Acting Minister of Trade Clarence Brown and his wife who visited the Horse Mansion during their official trip to Turkey
  • The former Vice Prime Minister of Holland and Minister of Economy Van Aardenne who visited the Horse Mansion during an official trip to Turkey
  • The former USA Ambassador H. E. M. Abramowitz
  • The King of Press Malcolm Forbes who was in Turkey to see the Balloon of the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent
  • Nato Secretary General Manfred Wörner was hosted at the invitation in her honor.
Fotoğraf Sakıp Sabancı Arşivi
The Story of the Horse Statues

In Istanbul, the belongings of previously prominent families were sold in auctions every day. I heard from the antique dealers my dad became friends with at these auctions that he would say “I have become addicted to old things. I cannot help buying it when I come across with a beautiful object.” The fact that my father would spend huge amounts to buy antiques when he wouldn’t spend on new clothes confirms his words. In 1950, when my father heard that the belongings and art works in the Mansion of Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha Family in Karakoy Muhurdar, that were collected during the Ottoman period were going to be sold by the inheritors, he visited the mansion which was closed since 1935. He liked best the bronze horse statue in the mansion’s garden that was made in Paris in 1876. The first horse statue that was bought from Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha Family caused a problem between Mr. Vehbi and my father. At the auction of Ahmet Muhtar Pasha’s inheritance there was a deer statue and a horse statue. The horse statue is the one we have in front of our house in Emirgan and the deer statue is the one in front of Divan Hotel. Here is the story: At the auction despite the fact that he knew my father`s intention, Mr. Vehbi kept bidding. As a result my father who was determined to get the horse statue ended up paying a lot more than we expected. When it was the deer statue that was being sold at the auction, Mr. Vehbi said to my father: “Haci Omer Agha, now that you own the horse statue please don`t attend the auction and let me buy the deer before the price gets super high. My father must have found this suggestion of Mr. Vehbi so unfair. He said to Mr. Vehbi, “No, Mr. Vehbi. We should be even.” So my father let him buy the deer statue after he raised the price by making one bid after another. Mr. Vehbi put a deer statue instead of a horse statue in the garden of Divan Hotel. My dad on the other hand was very happy to have the horse statue. When this statue was put in the garden of our mansion in Emirgan, our home started to be called the “Horse Mansion”. This first horse statue that was bought from Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha Family is still in front of our house in Emirgan. It cannot be seen by passers-by. The one that can be seen from the road was also bought by my father. It has a story that is even more interesting. My father went to a city called Lenyano, near Milan with Sinan Bosna and Fazli Turgay while he was going around in Europe visiting companies that sell machinery for factories so as to get machines for the BOSSA factory. Here, he was going to bargain for the steam generators that would be used in the factory. Mr. Mario Pensotti, the owner of a steam generator factory, invited my father and his friends for dinner in the house next door. There were many art works in a huge garden that was built around his house. The horse statue in the garden caught my father`s attention. He wanted to bargain both for the generators and the horse statue. Pensotti said to my father, “This horse statue was cast out of a mold. If you buy the generator I will have another statue made and give it to you as a present. I will not charge any money for that.” In 1957 the statue came to Turkey among the new machinery bought for BOSSA. In those days there had been many comments about this statue. People said: “How could they buy a statue from Europe, how could they pay for it, where did they find the foreign currency?”