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Details & Cataloguing

Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist

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London

Oushak, West Anatolia
MULTIPLE NICHE (SAF) FRAGMENT
wool, pile
mounted: 151 by 87cm; 4ft 11in by 2ft 10in; textile approximately 145 by 81cm; 4ft 9in by 2ft 8in.
second half 16th century
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Provenance

Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Jon Thompson;
Sold, Sotheby's, New York, Turkmen and Antique Carpets from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Jon Thompson, 16th December 1993, lot 66;
The present owner.

Literature

Other Recorded Fragments:

The Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi, Kirchheim, H., Turkish Carpets from 13th - 18th centuries, Istanbul 1996, Istanbul 1996, pp. 163 – 169, pl. 120, 120a, 11, 123, 123a. Ellis. C., ‘The Ottoman Prayer Rugs’ The Textile Museum Journal 2, no. 4 (1969): 5–22, fig 24 & Aslanapa. O., One Thousand Years of Turkish Carpets, Istanbul, 1988, pp. 150, 151 & 171, ill. 52, pl. 128. Ölçer. N., Turks A Journey of a Thousand Years: 600 - 1600, London, 2005, pp. 352, 354, 355 & 462. Fragments comprising, one top right corner niche with two adjacent top niches (inv. no. 127). One lower left corner niche with two niches adjacent (detail inv. no. 196). Two part upper tier panels (inv. no. 543). One lower right corner niche with two adjacent niches (inv. no. 777). Two lower central niches (detail inv. no. 774). Two central niches (detail inv. no. 744). Three bottom row niches.

Campana. P., Il Tappeto Orientale, Milan, 1962, pp. 185 – 186, tavalla. XV, a lower left corner detail, pictured in these pages & Ellis. C., ‘The Ottoman Prayer Rugs’ The Textile Museum Journal 2, no. 4 (1969): 5–22, fig 23, the full Campana reconstruction, six central and four corner niches.

The Textile Museum, Washington, Ellis. C., ‘The Ottoman Prayer Rugs’ The Textile Museum Journal 2, no. 4 (1969): 5–22, fig 22. Three central niches.

The Wher Collection, Lemaistre. J. & Franses. M, Tapis Present de L’Orient A L’Occident, Paris, 1989, pp. 100 – 101. Three upper central niches.

Catalogue Note

This and the previous work would have originally formed part of the central upper tier of a communal multiple niche prayer rug, or Saf. Quite possibly made and designed for the magnificent Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, the centre of the Ottoman Empire at the time of construction (1569 and 1575), which was commissioned by Sultan Selim II (1524 -1574) and the masterwork of Mimar Sinan (circa 1490 - 1588) - believed to have been removed from the Mosque in 1914. Alternatively Nazan Ölçer suggests that the original Saf, or Safs, originally came from the Sheyh Baba Yusuf Mosque, in Sivrihisar, suggesting they date to the late 15th century, Ölçer, op cit, p.462, cat. no. 340. However  literary references largely cite Edirne which would tally with the 16th century tile-work design and the construction date of the Selimiye Mosque. 

The Saf design would have reflected the splendor of the Mosque's interior and was split into several smaller fragments, varying in size, and some dispersed amongst public and private collections, see Literature for a list of recorded examples. Quite how the remaining Saf sections are related to one another is near impossible to tell without first hand examination, however the highly similar design and use of distinctive dyes is compelling and suggests they were contemporaneous and quite possibly woven in the same workshop. In Tapis Present de L’Orient A L’Occident, Lemaistre & Franses, op cit, pp. 100 - 101, where one of these examples is recorded, Michael Franses cites that there were likely four, possibly enormous, original Safs.

There is a fascinating correlation between the carnations, tulips, roses, rising cherry blossoms and the tilework of the time in what seems a very natural use of perspective. This combined with niche and Mosque lamp gives a highly architectural aspect to the design and one which no doubt would have matched that of the interior of the Mosque. On reviewing the tiles within this sale we can see a clear relationship, for example the Iznik tile, lot 21, where the tulips and, the remainder of, the Mosque lamp bear a distinct similarity in design to the offered Safs, an example of a Iznik Mosque lamp, Turkey, c. 1510, which would have been near contemporaneous to that within the Safs' design is in the British Museum, London, OA.1983.4, published in the exhibition catalogue Turks A Journey of a Thousand Years: 600 - 1600, op cit, p. 314, cat. no. 276. Further comparison within the sale can be seen in lot 6 in the use of the splayed carnations and tracery through the vines and leaves. A further, complete, example can be found in situ in the Mosque of Rüstem Paşa, The Book of Rüstem Paşa Tiles, Istanbul, 1998, p. 13, where the panel in question bears a remarkable likeness to the offered lot. As decoration for this Mosque was completed in 1561 it would suggest the Safs and this tilework would be near contemporaries. Charles Grant Ellis posits a later dating in his article, Ellis, op cit, p. 17, as discussed in the Jon Thompson sale catalogue (where this lot was sold previously), Ellis based this on the way in which they were made, not taking into account their purpose, arguing that courtly works would have been finer and with silk foundation. However this would have been unsuitable for the floor of a functioning Mosque, see Sotheby’s New York, 16 December 1993, lot 66, for further discussion.  

It is through Michele Campana’s reconstruction  that we get a better understanding of how striking the Saf would have been, allowing us to see the border break design between the upper and lower ties and also showing the continuous border design. It is fascinating that these two works, for so long separated from their grand setting in the Ottoman Empire, should have been brought together to such a collection, by way of other highly respected collectors such as Jon Thompson and Christopher Alexander.  

Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist

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London