Tiles from this series decorate the walls of the Library of Ahmet III at the Topkapi Palace. The library was built in the year 1718-19 but the architect is known to have reused tiles produced some 150 years earlier, perhaps those already used in the Bosphorus mansion of Kara Mustafa Pasha (d. 1683). The windows of Ahmet III’s Library are bordered with friezes composed of this border tile and are accompanied lower down the walls by the celebrated cintamani border tiles.
The two series of tiles, ours and the cintamanitiles, share an identical palette with tomato red, bright white and turquoise on intense cobalt painted background. They are executed with the highest level of quality and can confidently be dated to the same years of production. Many cintamaniborder tiles have been sold at auction and a large number are now in public and private collections around the world. See for instance Christie’s, London, 7 April 2011, lot 312 and 6 October 2011, lot 303; the Metropolitan Museum, New York, dated to 1560-70 (2019.173).
However, only two other tiles from the current design appears to be known. They are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (acquired from the Myers Collection in 1900; fig.6) and a fragment in the Louvre (OA3919/160; fig.7). A third tile, of which the whereabouts are unknown, was offered at Sotheby’s, London, 1982, lot 258.
This tile is of the finest quality and design. It relates closely to the border tiles designed for the Mausoleum of Hürrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana, the favourite consort of Sultan Suleiman I. She died in 1558 and her mausoleum, built the same year by the preeminent Ottoman architect Sinan, lies within the imperial Suleimaniyeh complex near the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Sultan Suleiman is buried in an adjacent mausoleum.
The vivid colour palette also relates to the tiles created for the decoration of the celebrated Mosque of Rustem Pasha, built for that Ottoman Great Vizier in Istanbul circa 1561-62. A series of border tiles in the mosque are very close to the present example, where a central motif (there a petalled rosette) is framed by two almond-shaped cusped medallions filled in with palmettes on turquoise ground.
(Photo credit David Brunetti)
Painted in bole red, turquoise and black with a large feathery palmette in the centre, framed by sazleaves, palmette scrolls and half medallions, reserved on intense cobalt ground, with bole red borders, two repaired breaks, areas of restoration along the edges, two old labels to reverse
15.5 x 31.5cm.
Sotheby’s, London, circa 1978-1982 (by repute)
A Private Collection, Jedda and London, until 2009