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Topkapi Palace :: Istanbul Glassware and Porcelain

Istanbul Glassware and Porcelain

Artifacts from the Palace collection include pieces of mainly local (Istanbul) porcelain of the Ottoman period, and 19th century glassware. They are exhibited in what was once the Confectioners' Kitchen and Mosque, which was combined into one large hall between 1940-45. The glass and porcelain collection consists of nearly two thousand pieces acquired through various means, the porcelain mainly from Yildiz Palace. There is also some curious meerschaum ware in the collection.

The porcelain is from two late Ottoman factories, both in Istanbul, the so-called Eser-i Istanbul ware being produced at Beykoz, and Ay-Yildiz ware at the imperial factory at Yildiz.

The Beykoz factory was founded by the Nazir of Tophane, Ahmet Fethi Pasha near the village of Beykoz on the Bosphorus in 1845, during the reign of Abdulmecit. Ware produced here bears the mark 'Eser-i Istanbul' either stamped on or inscribed in blue, red and gold. They were similar in quality to European porcelain of the period, whereas one couldn't tell them apart if it wasn't for the trademark stamp. The Eser-i Istanbul wares are undated and unsigned. Although anonymous, there are some extremely fine pieces of both porcelain and ceramics in the collection. These are mainly lidded bowls, vases, sweet broth or asure jugs, and plates. Much of this ware is decorated with multi-colored floral bouquets although some unembellished white wickerwork ware also exists. The collection also includes some ceramic tiles bearing the stamp of the factory.

Ay-Yildiz ware, also a luxury ware, was the product of the Imperial Factory or Fabrika-i Humayun built by Abdulhamit II on the grounds of Yildiz Palace. Some ware was distributed as gifts but most of it remained in the Palace. Ware produced here was dated and stamped with a star and crescent. Much of it bears the names of the craftsmen and artists who worked on it. The factory remained open until the deposition of Abdulhamit II in 1909, when it was attached to the Imperial Museum, whereas work continued there until it closed just prior to World War I. Almost the entire collection of "Ay-Yildiz" ware in Topkapi belonged to the Yildiz Palace, only a very few other pieces were acquired through purchase or bequest. Much of the collection consists of vases, plates, wall plaques and tea and coffee sets. Various groups of ware can be identified by their composition. Some bear the monogram of Abdulhamit II and the imperial coat of arms, and in certain cases the monogram is inscribed in both Arabic and Latin characters. Plates bearing the portraits of the Ottoman sultans and tea and coffee cups bearing a series of imperial portraits of all the sultans since Osman I, and 32 in all, are among the most important pieces in the collection. Among the illustrated ware, one group bearing views of Istanbul, mosques, fountains and palaces-mainly on plates, plaques and vases-is of particular interest. A number of others are decorated with floral bouquets and fauna.


It is known that glass was produced in the Ottoman capital from an early period, whereas we can identify the sites of glass workshops in Istanbul dating from the 16th century onwards. The earliest such workshops were located Ayvansaray and Balat on the Golden H, as well as in the Tekfur Sarayi vicinity. During the late Ottoman period, glass workshops were opened on the Asic shore of the Bosphorus in Beykoz Pasabahce, Cubuklu and Incirli. Istanbul ware consequently tends to be referred as "Beykoz" ware. Glassware from imperial factories at Beykoz was awarded a medal at the London Exhibition of 18 and ware from the imperial factor) Incirli was displayed at the Paris Exhibition of 1855. According to museum records, a large quantity Beykoz ware, namely the filigree ware known as Cesm-i Bulbul was purchased by the museum in 1884. The Pasabahce factory is still in existence.

The great majority of the ware in the collection dates from the 19th century, and there are four main types; Cesmi- Bulbul, a form of fine glass mosaic filigree ware similar to Venetian Latticino; opalines; colored ware; and clear glass and crystal.

Rosewater sprinklers; including some in the form of birds and pistols are of particular interest. Tall, narrow tulip specimen vases dominate the collection. Other objects of note include bowls and ewers, decanters and iceboxes.

An unusual group of Meerschaum biscuit ware, some of which are glazed yellowish-brown and gilded, and a few pieces glazed black and inlaid with silver are also notable. Known as Tophane ware, these artifacts, mainly coffee-cups, trays, writing sets, pipes, hookah bowls, coffee jars and sugar bowls were the products of workshops located on Luleci Hendek Street in Tophane, Istanbul. The finest examples date from the 19th century. At the peak of production there were nearly 60 operating workshops in Tophane, the last of which closed down in 1928. Most ware of this kind are signed and some are dated.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Topkapi Palace Hardcover".

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