Deaccessioned by City Art Museum, St. Louis, sold through these rooms, 10th October 1991, lot 351.
Couleurs d'Orient, Brussels, 2010
Turkophilia, Paris, 2011
Atasoy and Raby, 1989, p.276, no.617.
Brussels 2010, p.28
Paris 2011, pp.34-35, and back cover.
Ottoman rule came to the Balkans from the fifteenth century. With that came the rich silver mines of the region and the silver making tradition of the late Byzantine Empire. This comprised not only skills but also iconography, one dominated by beasts, fantastic and real, imbued, at least at the outset, with religious and secular significance. As time went on, this iconography seems to have lost its specific denotations and, instead, assumed a decorative exuberance. From this tankard it can be seen that certainly by the reign of Suleyman the fleshy leaves that had appeared in other aspects of Ottoman art at the end of the fifteenth century have joined this fantastic menagerie to form a resolved and truly Ottoman creation. The St. Louis Tankard is arguably the most successful expression of this decorative style, termed the 'Animal Style' by Dr. Marian Wenzel (Apollo, September 1989, pp.159-165).
Dr. Wenzel argued that the regional variations were subsumed into a pan-Balkan style once the territory had fallen to the Ottomans. Though ostensibly a regional tradition in the Empire, from the retention of tughras they appear to have assumed metropolitan and courtly prominence, probably as a result of the number of former Byzantine nobility who took up roles, and often Islam, at the Ottoman court. This tankard is the earliest known use of this form in silver, probably drawn from a northern European prototype. It continues to be used in silver in the second half of the sixteenth century and into the early years of the seventeenth century . An example sold through these rooms, 12th October 1988, lot 85, has a tughra which is probably that of Selim II (r.1566-74), and another example in this sale, lot 159, has a tughra of Ahmed I (r.1603-17), though both of these carry chased and punched decoration rather than the deep relief of the present example. Another example sold through these rooms, 14th October 1987, lot 437, with the tughra of Murad III (r.1574-95) or Murad IV (r.1623-40) has a similar three-part division separated by closely related strapwork and granulation. These elements were associated by Prof. John Carswell, when the piece was first sold through Sotheby's, with silver wares produced in North Greece or Macedonia but it was also observed that the decorative motifs seemed to draw principally on the traditions of Serbia and Dubrovnik.
The 'Animal style' took on a renewed importance when it began to influence a group of Iznik pottery wares from the 1580s. Though mostly dishes, other forms of Iznik pottery appeared with this type of decoration, including a tankard of this form (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.276, no.616). It is clear from the datable silver examples cited above that the Iznik pottery, though derived from the silver ware, was being produced contemporaneously with the continuing silver tradition. Following Byzantine practice, the pottery wares may have been intended for those for whom the silver pieces were unaffordable.
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