Couleurs d'Orient, Brussels, 2010
Turkophilia, Paris, 2011
Brussels 2010, p.29
Paris 2011, p.28
This is an extremely rare and important piece of early Ottoman silver. The form is derived from a Timurid shape principally produced in inlaid brass and, very occasionally, in jade. In its Ottoman manifestations, it becomes one of the iconic forms of the sixteenth century, appearing in silver, zinc, rock-crystal and Iznik pottery.
The squater body and narrower neck of this rendition, if its parallel in Iznik pottery provides a fair comparison, suggest a date no later than the first half of the sixteenth century (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.39). The decoration of the jug on a single theme of gadrooning would appear to be unique amongst extant examples of Ottoman silver. Though sections of gadrooning appear on a few silver bowls, it most frequently appears in imitation on Iznik pottery, particularly that dating from the 1480s to 1510 (ibid., p.78, no.58, and p.99, nos.105-109). These dishes combine the gadrooning with a combination of elements from formal arabesques (rumi) and some naturalistic floral designs (hatayi) often with origins in chinoiserie. On the other silver jugs of the form employed by this example, it is most commonly the combination of rumi and hatayi that decorates them, as can be seen on the jug in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (ibid., p.80, no.63). The source of the gadrooning would appear to draw on other sources. Related decoration appears on a pottery jar, attributed to Iznik of c.1530, in the British Museum (Carswell 1998, p.63, no.36). This, it is suggested, derives its form and decoration from Chinese celadons, a form of Chinese porcelain well represented in the Topkapi Palace treasury. These celadons employ petal-like ribs carved in registers in a manner closely comparable to those found on this jug (ibid., p.31, no.12). The same form of decoration also appears on Miletus ware of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, sometimes in a more naturalistic style. This raises the possibility of a date for the jug earlier than the one stated but it seems prudent to associate it with the period when the courtly patronage of silver is known to be active at the same time as such designs still had currency.
The evolution of Ottoman court patronage of works in silver is not entirely clear. Mehmed the Conqueror (r.1444-81, with interruptions) is thought to have had some interest in accumulating objects in precious metals, judging by the order of 1465 by his Grand Vizier, Mahmud Pasa, for the Ragusans to supply 'copper, silver and gold' and objects of which 'the Sultan is fond' (Allan and Raby 1982, p.17). However, other sources, such as Spandugino, suggest that the Imperial taste for such goods really began in the reign of Bayezid II (r.1481-1512) and grew in the reign of Selim I (r.1512-1520), encouraged by the capture of Safavid treasuries in 1514 and those of the Mamluks in 1516-17 (ibid., p.18). Thus a significant work in silver, such as this jug, might have found courtly favour from the end of the fifteenth century onwards.
The 'castellated' style of cover is also found, in a different variant, on the silver jug in the Victoria and Albert mentioned above, though this may have a replacement cover. Equally, the dragon-form handle is treated in a very similar manner to that on the repousse gold and rock-crystal jug of similar form in the Topkapi Palace treasury (Rogers and Ward 1988, p.134, no.68).
The registers of gadrooning found of this silver jug are imitated in the decoration of a series of Iznik jugs of the later sixteenth century, dating mostly from 1580 to 1600 (Atasoy and Raby 1986, p.271, nos.605-608). Although this silver jug may be the only survivor of its type, these Iznik wares argue that it was a form of decoration known to the potters and, therefore, applied to a number of silver pieces, a taste and style of the sixteenth century preserved only in this jug (Atasoy and Raby 1986, p.271, nos.605-608). There even seems to have been some awareness of this style abroad: a glass jug from Venice is probably a close contemporary to this silver tankard. It has the same form as this piece and is decorated with vertical lines suggesting a schematised form of fluting (Frankfurt 1985, vol.2, p.334, fig.90). The glass jug has English mounts dated to 1548-49 and, therefore, can be ascribed with confidence to the first half of the sixteenth century.
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