With its delicate spiraling stem design, this small vessel belongs to a group of ceramics formerly referred to as "Golden Horn" wares. Current scholarship, however, prefers the term tughrakes-, or "tughra‑illuminator" style for such decoration, comparing its design to the fine swirling vines adorning tughra calligraphies. During this period, pottery shapes often imitated metalwork forms. This piece, however, emulates glass mosque lamps, which often displayed Arabic inscriptions.
Ceramic Vessel in the Shape of a Mosque Lamp (no. 59.69.3) and Ceramic Spouted Jug (no. 66.4.3a, b)
Iznik ceramics with spiral decoration of the type seen on these two objects were once erroneously thought to have been made in workshops situated on the inner harbor of Istanbul, the famous Golden Horn. They have more recently been dubbed the tugrakeş or tughra-illuminator group, after the court officials who illuminated the sultan’s ceremonial signature on official documents, using similar spiral decoration, in the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Such wares fall into two distinct groups: an earlier group executed entirely in cobalt blue (with occasional accents of turquoise); and a later group embellished with a fine black line with blue accents. Among the best-known examples of the earlier group, the Metropolitan’s two small vessels, one in the shape of a glass mosque lamp and the other in the shape of a metal coffeepot, demonstrate the propensity of Iznik artists to borrow forms from other media, especially in the formative years of the Iznik manufactories in the earlier sixteenth century.
The lamp is of special interest because it bears elegant Arabic religious inscriptions and good wishes in kufic script, which, in common with inscriptions on some other examples of Iznik ware, demonstrate significant spelling errors. On the body is written al-mu(l)k lillah (Dominion belongs to God) and al-wahid (the One), referring to God. Below this text on the body is the word ‘aish (the pleasure of life). On the flare of the lamp is the phrase "No brave youth except ‘Ali, no sword except Dhu’l faqar," referring to the son-in-law of the Prophet and his famous weapon. While such an inscription can plausibly be found within the Sunni Muslim orbit (the sword of ‘Ali is frequently depicted on the sanjak parade banners of the rigorously Sunni orthodox Ottomans), in the early sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire, at a time of bitter struggle between Sunni and Shi‘i in Anatolia, such mention of ‘Ali and his sword might have carried a specifically Shi‘i religious connotation.
No inscriptions complicate the vessel in the shape of a spouted jug ( güze) or coffeepot. Compared with later Iznik vessels in lamp or ewer form, both of these objects are very small. Exquisite miniatures, they capture the elegance of highly prized blue-andwhite Ming porcelain but remain distinctively Ottoman in form and decoration.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Atasoy and Raby 1989, pp. 108–11.
Inscription: Inscription in distorted Arabic in thuluth script:
[sic]لا فتا إلا علي/ لا سيف إلا ذالفقار
No brave youth except ‘Ali, no sword except Dhu’l faqar
Below this, in distorted Arabic in kufic script, repeated two times:
الـ[ـلـ]ـملک لله الواحد
Dominion [belongs to] God, the One
Below in naskhi script:
The pleasure of life
Octave Homberg, Paris (by 1903–8; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 11–18, 1908); [ Brimo de Laroussilhe, Paris, until 1959; sold to MMA]
Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Exposition des Arts Muselmans," 1903.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Calligraphy West of China," March 15, 1972–May 7, 1972, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.
Migeon, Gaston. Exposition des Arts Musulmans au Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Paris: E. Levy, 1903. p. 7, Similar lamp illustrated.
Koechlin, R., and Gaston Migeon. "Ceramics, Fabrics, Carpets One Hundred Plates in Color." In Oriental Art. Paris, 1928. ill. pl. XXXIX, An almost identical lamp is illustrated.
Lane, Arthur. "Ottoman Pottery of Isnik." Ars Orientalis vol. 2 (1957). pp. 270-72.
"The Recent Acquisitions Room." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 18 (April 1960). pp. 269-271, ill. p. 271 (b/w).
Grube, Ernst J. "The Varieties of Islamic Art." Apollo, n.s., LXXXII, no. 43 (September 1965). p. 237, ill. fig. 5.
Denny, Walter B. The Ceramics of the Mosque of Rustem Pasha and the Environment of Change. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1977. p. 259, ill. fig. 3 (b/w).
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Pottery: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, vol. 40, no. 4 (Spring 1983). no. 46, p. 41, ill. pl. 46 (color).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 116, ill. fig. 86 (color).
Atasoy, Nurhan, and Julian Raby. Iznik : The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, edited by Yanni Petsopoulos. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. no. 157, pp. 114-115, ill. (b/w), misprinted as 59.63.3.
Khoury, Nuhan N. N. "The Mihrab Image: Commemorative Themes in Medieval Islamic Architecture." Muqarnas vol. 9 (1992). p. 21, ill. fig. 12 (b/w).
Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). pp. 44-45, ill. fig. 54 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 208, pp. 286, 299-300, ill. p. 300 (color).