Lot 85
  • 85

A rare Iznik lavender-ground pottery matara, Turkey, late 16th century

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
389,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • ceramic and silver
  • 22.8cm. height.
    14.4cm. diam. of base
the round base tapering towards two short spouts with a small protruding loop between, decorated with painted underglaze over a lavender blue ground in white, green and red with floral garlands, lobed medallions containing split-palmettes and arabesque motifs, each spout with later metal mounts with screw-fixed terminals


Ex-Collection Octave Borelli Bey (1849-1911)
Thence by descent

Catalogue Note

This matara represents a rare discovery as only one other Iznik matara is known. Published on multiple occasions, and sold at Sotheby’s on 24 April 2013 (lot 241) as a ‘unique Iznik pottery flask’, the other matara was until now considered to be the only example of the matara in Iznik.

Deriving its particular shape from early leather forms made of the hind quarters of a quadruped, the form, which was of humble, nomadic origins, was copied throughout the Ottoman world in ceramic, metal, and even rock crystal. Just as the matara which previously sold at Sotheby’s, now in the Omer Koç collection (see Bilgi 2015, pp.432-3, no.193), was decorated with a rare marble-like pattern across its body, the present matara also has an unusual lavender-coloured ground. Belonging to a short-lived and specific period in Iznik production, such coloured slips, in beige, lavender and dark orange, required skill and knowledge on behalf of the potters and were experimented with over a very short period, between 1560 and 1575. These dates provide a rough terminus ante-quem for the dating of the present piece.

Examples of lavender Iznik wares are in a number of museum collections, including the Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul (Bilgi 2005, no.15, pp.50-51), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 1970.30), Museo Calouste Gulbenkian (inv. no.780), and the Musée National de la Renaissance, Chateau d’Écouen (Hitzel and Jacotin 2005, pp.53-55, nos.8 and 9).

Two close examples of this form in rock crystal are in the Topkapi Saray Museum, contemporary in date to this Iznik matara and mounted in gold, inv. nos. TKS 2/484 and TKS 2/474 (see Atil 1987, p.129, no.60 and Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.277, no.633). These rock crystal flasks attest to the courtly status attained by the matara, and further derivations of this shape were produced, also in luxury media, some of which even known to have been sent to Russia and Poland as Imperial gifts.

The design, notably the continuous curving stem of prunus flowers is quite close to a number of Iznik-wares in which such long prunus-blossoms dominate or frame a work. In this case, the flowers themselves are quite stylised, possibly-due to the nature of the slip and working with red on a lavender ground. The same effect, in which the petals are represented by painted dots, is apparent on another dish with a reddish-brown ground in the Museo Calouste Gulbenkian (inv. no. 773, see Ribeiro 1996, p.155, no.35). The white lobed medallions containing a design of split-palmettes which appear on several places on the present matara are also apparent on another lavender-ground dish in the Chateau d’Écouan (inv. no.E.CI.8550 (DS2225)). A further example of such split-palmette motifs is on a water bottle with an orange-slip ground with lavender and white designs originally in the mosque of Sultan Selim II in Edirne (completed in 1574-75) now in the Çinili Köşk Museum, Istanbul (see Atasoy and Raby 1989, pp.241-1, no.450). 

The cross-shape in relief with palmette terminals on each side of the matara also echoes the design on a leather Ottoman matara of the sixteenth century now in the National Museum in Warsaw (inv. no. SKAZsz 2270), pointing towards a common repertoire of motifs for such Ottoman works of art (see Istanbul 1999, p.115, no.14).