Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ewer with 'Tughra-Illuminator' Style Decoration

Object Name:
Made in Turkey, Iznik
Stonepaste; painted in blue under transparent glaze
Pitcher (a): H. 8 13/16 in. (22.4 cm)
W. 7 7/16 in. (18.9 cm)
Max. diam. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm)
Lid (b): H. 1 9/16 in. (4 cm)
Diam. 3 7/16 in. (8.7 cm)
Wt. 1.9 oz (53.9 g)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1966
Accession Number:
66.4.3a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 460
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.[1] 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.
Fernand Adda Collection, Egypt (by 1959–65; sale, Palais Galliéra, Paris,December 3, 1965, no. 803, to Marthe Baschet for MMA)
Lane, Arthur. Later Islamic Pottery: Persia, Syria, Egypt, Turkey. London: Faber and Faber, 1957. p. 50, pl. 29A, pl. 29A illustrates a pitcher with similar shape and decoration, formerly in the D.K. Kelekian collection; Isnik, ca. 1530–35 p. 50 discusses pitcher.

Rackham, Bernard. "Illustrated Catalogue of a Private Collection." In Islamic Pottery and Italian Maiolica. London: Faber and Faber, 1959. no. 55, p. 24, ill. pl. 22A.

Collection d'un Grand Amateur (Adda). Paris, December 3, 1965. no. 803.

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 120, ill. fig. 90 (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. 209, pp. 286, 299-301, ill. p. 301 (color).

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