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x0x Works of art to dazzle the beholder: Ottoman Palace Treasury

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    [See http://www.mfa.gov.tr/grupf/topkapi/page12.htm for more.] x0x Works of art to dazzle the beholder: Ottoman Palace Treasury By Emine Bilirgen and Suheyla
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2004
      [See http://www.mfa.gov.tr/grupf/topkapi/page12.htm for more.]

      x0x Works of art to dazzle the beholder: Ottoman Palace Treasury

      By Emine Bilirgen and Suheyla Murat

      The Ottoman Imperial Treasury was legendary in the past and today its
      remarkable collections of thousands of rare and beautiful objects
      continue to dazzle visitors to Topkapi Palace. The Treasury is housed
      in four rooms in the third court of Topkapi Palace, which was built by
      Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481). The earliest records concerning the
      Treasury are inventory lists of three to five pages dating from the
      reigns of Mehmed II and Bayezid II (1481-1512). Treasury registers
      kept in later periods provide further, if limited, information about
      the contents of the Treasury. The organisation of the Inner Palace
      consisted of various corps of staff, the treasurers being one of the
      most important. During the reign of Mehmed II the number of treasurers
      appears to have been small, rising to 60 during the reign of Ahmed I
      (1603-1617), and to 157 during the reign of Ahmed III (1703-1730).

      Opening the Imperial Treasury was an affair of strict ceremony. The
      Steward of the Treasury would bring the keys and then check the seal
      as ordained by Selim I (1512-1520) following his campaigns against
      Iran and Egypt

      in 1514 and 1517 respectively, before unlocking the doors. This
      formality was followed in accordance with the wishes of Selim I until
      Topkapi Palace became a museum in 1924. Today the Treasury is both
      opened and closed by a group of authorised staff. The building which
      housed the precious objects and bullion belonging to the Ottoman
      sultans is today used to exhibit only jewelled and gold objects, but
      originally the contents of the Palace Treasury were far broader in
      scope, including precious manuscripts and albums, fabrics, royal
      clothing, embroideries, silver ware, porcelain, calligraphic tools,
      seals, weapons, clocks and documents. When the palace became a museum
      these were transferred to the appropriate sections. The Treasury grew
      over the centuries with the addition of spoils of war and gifts from
      foreign rulers and Ottoman statesmen. On such occasions as religious
      feast days, the enthronement of a new sultan, and celebrations of
      royal circumcisions or weddings, the coutry'si most eminent craftsmen
      would present the sultan with their finest masterpieces.

      In addition many objects were purchased, the most celebrated being the
      86 carat Kasikci Diamond, which was discovered on a rubbish dump in
      the Egrikapi district of Istanbul during the reign of Mehmed IV
      (1648-1687). The chief imperial jeweller purchased the diamond and it
      was placed in the Treasury. Every year the Ottoman sultans sent gifts
      of money and precious objects to Mecca and Medina, and these objects
      were returned to Topkapi Palace for safekeeping during the First World
      War by Governor of the Hejaz Fahreddin Pasa. Today they form an
      important group in the Treasury collections. Another group of objects
      consists of those brought to the Treasury from the palaces of
      Dolmabahce and Yildiz following the proclamation of the Turkish
      Republic in 1923. The contents of the Treasury were always stored in
      chests and cupboards until the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861),
      when for the first time some of these precious objects were placed on
      display. Although the majority of items date from the 16th-19th
      centuries, there are also pieces of Byzantine, Mamluk and Seljuk

      such as the gold reliquaries containing the occiput, arm and hand of
      John the Baptist, a 14th century Mamluk glass lamp, a 13th century
      Seljuk steel mirror bearing the figure of a horseman, and a 15th
      century sandalwood chest belonging to Ulugh Bey, the grandson of
      Timur. Royal thrones are exhibited in each of the four Treasury rooms.

      The 16th century ebony throne is in the classical Ottoman throne form
      and inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl in designs of split leaf
      scrolls and cintemani (three-spot) motifs. It is thought to have been
      used by Murad IV (1623-1640) during the Baghdad campaign. The gold
      throne was that used by the Ottoman sultans until the collapse of the
      empire. It is made of wood covered entirely with gold plate and
      mounted with 954 large chrysolites in lobed gold mounts. The throne
      was presented to Murad III (1574-1595) by Governor of Egypt Ibrahim
      Pasa. The throne of Ahmed I (1603-1617) is a masterpiece of mother of
      pearl and tortoiseshell inlay on walnut, and is set with precious
      gems. This baldachin style throne is inscribed with the name of Sultan
      Ahmed I inside the canopy.

      The fourth throne was the gift of Nadir Shah of Iran to Mahmud I
      (1730-1754). Made in India, the throne is gold plated with enamelled
      decoration studded with thousands of pearls, rubies and emeralds.

      Jewelled pendants were hung as symbols of royalty from throne canopies
      and the domes, ceilings and doorways of the rooms used by the sultan.

      Among those in the collection are emerald pendants made for Ahmed I,
      Mustafa III (1757-1774), Abdulhamid I (1774-1789) and Abdulmecid
      (1839-1861), and enamelled silver pendants mounted with diamonds
      belonging to Selim III (17 89-1807) and Mahmud II (1808-1839).

      Inscriptions and tugra (imperial monograms) on these pendants tell us
      to which sultan they belonged. The most important items of jewellery
      worn by the Ottoman sultans and princes were turban ornaments made of
      gold studded with emeralds, rubies, diamonds and pearls. Plumes made
      of heron, peacock and bird of paradise feathers were attached to these
      ornaments. The collection of jewelled weapons in the Treasury consists
      of swords, daggers, maces, bows and arrows,

      quivers, archers' guards and rings, wall guns, powder cases, pistols,
      suits of armour, helmets and shields. The collection includes the
      jewelled suit of armour of Mustafa III, the yatagan sword of Suleyman
      the Magnificent (1520-1566), and the dagger with a rock crystal handle
      belonging to Selim I. Throughout the history of the empire gifts were
      presented by foreign countries to the Ottoman sultans and princes.

      Those of the later period include two figurines made of enamelled
      baroque pearls and set with diamonds, turquoises and rubies, which
      were gifts of the Indian Muslims to the future Abdulaziz, a gold bowl
      that was a gift to Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) from France, and a
      Fabergé kovsh or ceremonial drinking vessel sent by Czar Nicholas II.

      Objects carved from rock crystal and dating from the 16th and 17th
      centuries form another notable group in the Treasury.

      Made by Ottoman craftsmen, they are mostly decorated with gold and
      precious gems, and include water flasks, writing boxes, rosewater
      sprinklers, jugs, ewers and pendants. There are also three 15th
      century French jugs made of rock crystal. Diverse jade objects of
      outstanding beauty carved by Ottoman, Indian, Iranian, Chinese and
      Russian craftsmen between the 16th and 19th centuries include jugs,
      cups, plates, boxes, bowls, vases and mirrors. There are also 16th
      century agate chess sets in blue and red and other exquisite objects
      carved from agate dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, including
      boxes, cups, bowls and prayer beads. Jewelled book bindings made from
      gold and jade are among the most spectacular pieces in the Treasury.

      Dating mainly from the 16th century, these are richly encrusted with
      emeralds, rubies, diamonds, turquoises and other precious stones. Most
      notable of all these bindings is that belonging to the divan or
      collected poems of Murad III and dated 1587.

      Since it is impossible to exhibit all the thousands of objects
      belonging to the Ottoman Palace Treasury, only those of greatest
      historic interest and those which best represent the characteristics
      of their time are selected. The rare and priceless objects in which
      the Ottoman sultans of past centuries delighted today make a
      breathtaking display for visitors to TopkapI Palace.

      * Emine Bilirgen and Suheyla Murat are keepers of the Treasury
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