This is a rare intact example of Iznik pottery of the 'Golden Horn', or 'Tuğrakeş’, style. Last sold in these rooms over thirty years ago, it represents an opportunity to acquire one of the last examples of ‘Golden Horn’ Iznik remaining in private hands.
The group of wares known as 'Golden Horn' took their name from a group of sherds discovered on the waterways of the southern shores of Istanbul in the early twentieth century, during excavations for a new Post Office in Sirkeci (Carswell 1998, p.50). Others are said to be have been found near Aksaray (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.108). They were published as ‘Golden Horn’ by G. Migeon and A. Sakisian, ‘Les faiences d’Asie Mineure’, Revue de l’Art Ancien et Modern, Paris, 1923, vol.44, pp.128-9, based on a record by the seventeenth century Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi. Although there are records of pottery production on the Golden Horn at this period, the association is misleading and the pieces in this group are clearly the work of the potters of Iznik and Kutahya, as further confirmed by excavations undertaken in 1984 by Professor Aslanapa in Iznik that revealed fragments of this pottery style (O. Aslanapa et al, The Iznik Tile Kiln Excavations: The Second Round: 1981-1988, Istanbul, 1989, p.149).
One of the most famous pieces of the group is the Godman flask in the British Museum (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.46). The fame of this piece is in part due to its bearing an inscription with historical information on its base. Unusual enough in itself, the inscription also provides a rare documentary dating for a piece of Iznik, in this case 1529, giving a relatively secure dating for the Golden Horn wares. The group displays a form of decoration, predominantly a series of floral concentric spirals, which neither evolve from an Iznik antecedent nor leave a significant legacy in that tradition.
Rather, the inspiration seems to come from contemporary illumination, and in particular Imperial illumination of a type found on the background of the Sultan's tughras (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.109, fig.131). It is significant that the tughra, which acted as an imperial signature or calligraphic insigna for each Ottoman sultan, was often used on firmans, edicts made by the Sultan himself, with his tughra as a heading, that were created, issued and controlled solely by the Ottoman Imperial Chancery in the Topkapi Palace. Specifically trained court officials known as tughrakes, were solely in charge of drawing and illuminating these on each document. It is with Sultan Suleyman Magnificent (r.1520-66) that these works took on important oeuvres d’art with the use of expensive gold ink and detailed decorative designs within. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, houses an impressive firman bearing the tughra of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, inv. no. 38.149.1. Although dated to the later part of his reign, it demonstrates the evolution of this scrolling motif in its complex curved saz leaves, lotus blossoms and feathery-leaves. Sotheby's sold an early sixteenth century illuminated Qur'an copied by Mustafa Dede with a finely executed finispiece featuring a similar blue on white split palmettes scroll as on this example (see comparable image) (sold in these rooms, 8 October 2014, lot 31).
Metalwork was also influenced by these designs, as seen on a ewer now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. M.21-1987), dating from 1530-50, it was hammered and chased throughout on the surface with spiraling palmettes. An inkwell sold in these rooms, 9 April 2014, lot 160, shows the use of this type of background on an imperial silver-gilt and nielloed penbox (divit) bearing the tughra of Mehmed IV (r.1648-87). These sources indicate the multiple influences of the innermost workings of the Imperial chancery and the legitimate the assertion of Sultanic patronage of this period, particularly on Iznik pottery.
Although this style appears to be short-lived, its influence reached beyond the boundaries of the Ottoman empire. Whereas some Italian majolica shapes, such as the 'tondinos' (few extant examples of which are listed below), make an appearance in Golden Horn wares, Iznik ceramics were popular in Venice and continued to influence Italian potters in Liguria in the second half of the sixteenth century (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.267, fig.589). Last offered at Sotheby's in 1986 and housed in a private collection since, this dish presents a rare opportunity to acquire an important example of Iznik demonstrating this rare and unusual motif.
Examples of 'Golden Horn' wares in museum and personal collections:
Dish, David Collection, Copenhagen, inv. no. 43-1973.
Dish, Sadberk Hanim Museum, Istanbul, inv. no. 301.3904.
Dish, British Museum, London, inv. no. 87.6-17.9.
Dish, British Museum, London, inv. no. G.1983.17.
Dish, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 66.4.11.
Dish, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 41.45.
Dish, Kuwait National Museum, inv. no. LNS 231C.
Dish, Musée de l’Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, inv. no. 55.92.
Dish, Sotheby’s, New York, 21 May 1981, lot 218 (ex-collection Egene Bernat).
Bowl, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. 790-1905.
Bowl, Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.109, no.135.
Bowl, Museum fur Islamische Kunst, Berlin, inv. no. 1.5567.
Footed bowl, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. 243-1876.
Bowl with missing foot, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, inv. no. 1980-1910.
Jug with cover, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 66.4.3.
Jug with cover, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, inv. no. 1952.269.
Jug, David Collection, Copenhagen, inv. no. 11/1970.
Carafe, Museo Civico, Bologna, inv. no. 1303.
Bottle, British Museum, London, inv. no. 184.108.40.2069.
Fragmentary bottle, British Museum, London, inv. no. G.1983.118.
Hanap, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, inv. no. 58-1911.
Tondino, Kier Collection, London.
Tondino, ex-collection Lady Barlow, Cambridge, sold at Bonham’s, 16 October 2003, lot 228.
Tondino, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, inv. no. X.3274.
Tondino, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, inv. no. D 167.
Tile fragments, Museum fur Islamische Kunst, Berlin, inv. no. 5614.