Also known as rahle
, stands such as this were used in order to hold large, open Qur’ans. They are beautifully manufactured items due to their purpose and could often be found in mosques and mausolea, as well as in personal collections. Attributable to the end of the fifteenth-century, this piece is particularly interesting as it displays both Mamluk influences and quintessentially Ottoman designs. There were several important woodcarvers at the Ottoman court in the late fifteenth-century, notably Ahmad B. Hasan Qalibi-Fani who produced exceptional Qur’an stands for members of Sultan Bayezid II’s court, an example of which is now in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Istanbul (inv. no.003, Istanbul 2000, p.253).
The tradition of inlaid woodwork, by which shapes were hollowed out into the wood base and filled with other types of wood or other materials altogether, such as ivory or mother-of-pearl, was already practised by the Seljuks and Mamluks but developed under the Ottomans (Atil, 1987, p.166). The present Qur’an stand displays carved rumi
shapes along the edges of the top as well as a larger rumi
in the middle of the arched legs. This motif was popular in Egypt and can be seen as an example of the lasting Mamluk influence on the woodcutters of the Ottoman Empire. It was mainly in the carving of the wood and the technique used to decorate the object that the Mamluk influence is visible. This Qur’an stand is particularly special as it uses the techniques of one tradition with the motifs of another.
Unlike the present Qur’an stand, early Ottoman examples from the thirteenth-century often used highly carved and painted wood rather than inlay. The restrained decoration and exceptional use of inlaid ivory and silver on the present stand displays the Mamluk influence and development of the Ottoman woodworkers (Roxburgh 2005, p.132). An iconic Ottoman motif consists of the so called 'square Kufic' (kufī al-ma‘qili
) script used on this stand. One of the oldest motifs in the calligraphic tradition, and further established by the Seljuks, square Kufic was a well-known design in Ottoman architecture and decorative arts (Roxburgh 2005, p.111). One can see an example of this on the architectural tiles of Safa Camii in Diyarbakir (Tafel, 1933, p.147).
On the present example, each square repeats the names 'Muhammad' and 'Ali' four times; 'Muhammad' is repeated around the border, and 'Ali' is repeated in the centre. It is known that square Kufic was used to decorate fifteenth century Ottoman Qur’an stands (see Cevat Çulpan, Rahleler (Qur’an stands), Istanbul, 1968, fig.10). A Qur’an cabinet in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Istanbul (inv. no.002), features Kufic inscriptions comparable to the square Kufic panels on the present Qur’an stand (Istanbul 2000, p.258). Another example decorated with square Kufic panels is a quiver dated to the sixteenth century, preserved in the Topkapi Palace (inv. no.1/10463), and published in the exhibition catalogue: Istanbul – The City and the Sultan, De Nieuwe Kerk, 2006, p.142. Furthermore, the ivory inlay on the edges of the present stand was executed in so-called 'dog’s tooth, a motif demonstrated by other Ottoman Qur’an stands of the sixteenth-century.
This is an exceptional object due to the fact it lies at the confluence of the Mamluk and Ottoman period. It ranks amongst the highest quality of craftsmanships and decoration, notable examples of which were produced for the court (see Istanbul 2000, pp. 252-9). By combining two decorative traditions the woodcarver created a quintessentially Islamic object from an era of transition and adaptation.
This lot is accompanied by a radiocarbon dating measurement report confirming an attribution (to a 95% confidence interval) between 1429 to 1470 AD.