Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Sultanahmet, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°00'42.2"N 28°59'04.0"E / 41.011722, 28.984432

Second Courtyard


Apart from exhibiting kitchen utensils, today the buildings contain a silver gifts and utensils collection, as well as large collections of Chinese blue-and-white, white, and celadon porcelain. Today, Topkapı kitchens house a rich collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain, said to be the 3rd richest collection of porcelain in the world after those at Peking and Dresden, with 10.700 rare and valuable pieces.

Chinese and Far East porcelain was highly valued and was transported by camel caravans over the Silk Road or by sea. The 10,700 pieces of Chinese, Japanese and Turkish porcelain displayed here are rare and precious. The Chinese porcelain collection ranges from the late Song Dynasty (13th c.) and the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368), through the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). This museum also contains one of the world's largest collections of 14th-century Longquan celadon.

Among the most invaluable collections in the Topkapı Palace Museum is its Chinese porcelain collection, which is displayed in the palace's Imperial Kitchens (Matbah-ı Amire) together with the Japanese porcelain collection. This unique collection, which consists of more than 10,000 pieces, is the largest porcelain collection outside of China, and is particularly important in that it showcases the uninterrupted historical development of porcelain from the 13th century to the early 20th century.

Chinese and Far Eastern porcelain was highly valued and was transported by camel caravans over the Silk Road or by sea. The 10,700 pieces of Chinese porcelain displayed here are rare, precious, and thought to rival that found in China as one of the finest collections in the world. The Chinese porcelain collection ranges from the late Song Dynasty (960-1279) and the Yuan Dynasty (1280–1368), through the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) to the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911).

This museum also contains one of the world's largest collections of 14th-century Longquan celadon. The collection has around 3,000 pieces of Yuan and Ming Dynasty celadons. Those celadon were valued by the Sultan and the Queen Mother because it was supposed to change colour if the food or drink it carried was poisoned. The Japanese collection is mainly Imari porcelain, dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Further parts of the collection include white porcelain from the beginning of the 15th century and "imitation" Blue-and-White and Imari porcelain from Vietnam, Thailand and Persia.

These places’ present day use is like that; upon entering the Kiler-i Amire Kapısı, Vekilharç Dairesi which is at the right hand side; being restored; serves as Museum Workshops. Photography Workshop and Textiles Conservation Workshop is also situated in this building. After restorations, Kiler and Yağhane binası functions as Müze Saray Arşivi. Aşçılar Mescidi with its two floors, beside the oil house structure, is still conserved.


The palace collection contains a total of 10,700 pieces, ranging from the late Sung (13th century) and the Yuan Dynasties (1280-1368), through the Ming (1368-1644) to the Ch'ing period (1644- 1912). A number of these are currently on display in the palace kitchens. It is known that Chinese porcelain was exported to the Middle East as early as the 9th and 10th centuries, where it was widely known and used. It retained its place as ware of considerable value throughout the Orient in subsequent eras, being particularly favored in the Ottoman Court.

The collection has around 3,000 pieces of Yuan and Ming Dynasty celadons. Those celadon were valued by the Sultan and the Queen Mother because it was supposed to change colour if the food or drink it carried was poisoned. The Japanese collection is mainly Imari porcelain, dating from the 17th to the 19th century. Further parts of the collection include white porcelain from the beginning of the 15th century and "imitation" Blue-and-White and Imari porcelain from Annam, Thailand and Persia.

Generally, Chinese porcelain reached the palace either as gifts and trophies, or some of it was purchased. A certain amount of ware was acquired by the reversion of the estates of deceased statesmen and members of the court, or of those who had fallen from favor. Most of it was kept in the palace kitchens, although some pieces were allocated to the treasury.

Much of it was used regularly at the sultan's table, whereas a Porcelain Warehouse or Çinihane was built in the kitchens by the architect Sinan especially for Chinese wares. Nevertheless, many pieces were damaged during a fire that broke out in the kitchens in 1574, during the reign of Murat III, and were later replaced by new wares.

The best known of the early Chinese ware are the celadons, famous for their grayish, bluish or brownish-green glaze consisting mainly of feldspar. some silica and a small amount of iron (1-3 per cent) . First called 'Celadon' during the 17th century after the green costume of the shepherd Celadon in the French pastoral of Honore d'Urfe -'l'Astree', performed in Paris in 1610, quantities of this ware dating to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries can be found in the palace collection.

The palace ware has the characteristic grayish -white paste of Lung-ch'uan Celadon, from the province of Chekiang, which turns to a warm, burnt red upon firing, a feature most noticeable at the base of vessels where the glaze trails off, which is due to the oxidation of ferrous material either during or after firing. Celadon was known by the Ottomans and other Near East countries as Mertebani.

This was used to describe large heavy jars with dark-brown glaze dating from the Tang to the Ming period, of which there are three examples in the Topkapi Palace dating from the 16th century. The term Mertebani actually derives from the port of Martaban in Burma where the ceramics of China and Siam were dispatched to India, Africa and the Middle East.

The majority of the palace collection consists of blue and whites dating from the 14th to 19th centuries. Painting with blue cobalt underglaze was first employed in Iran towards the end of the 12th century, and later both the cobalt and the underglaze painting technique used to apply it were taken to China by merchants, where it served the needs of Chinese porcelain craftsmen until the discovery of cobalt in China about a century later.

Of the early blue and whites in the palace, the best-known examples are large plates with unglazed bases, some with fluted (cavetto) rims and decorated around the rim with waves, or floral and lozenge motifs and a floral motif in the center. Fish, ducks or similar fauna and mythical creatures such as the phoenix, ch'i-i-Lin and dragon also shared the central part of pattern.

Another popular type of ware was the vases of the Mei p'ing type dating from the Sung period to the 18th century. Kuan ware, in the form of massive pots, waisted, lob-necked vases and flasks dating to the 14th and 15th centuries are among the typical products of Chinese kilns of the period to be found in the palace. The most important 15th century piece, one that is widely known, is the sc called Annam vase, which bears the date 1450. Made in Vietnam, the vase bears to name given to Vietnam during the T'ang period, when it was a Chines protectorate.

There are few examples of Yuan ware in the collection, and the majority of Ming ware is blue and white, there being number of blue and whites but also polychrome ware dating from the reign of the Ming emperor Chia-ching (1522 1566) , most of which bears hi monogram. As may be seen, the Chin blue and whites are notable for their brilliant blue.

Although there is very little ware from the Wan-li period (1573-1619) bearing the monogram of that emperor, a ware which was particularly popular in the west, the collection possesses a number of large plates and other vessels of the 'Kraak' group. This group was exported in large numbers to the West, especially to Holland, from the beginning of the 17th century onwards.

Kraak ware, was the first Chinese ware to reach Europe in any great quantity and was extremely influential on European, particularly Dutch ceramics. The name came from a Dutch term for a form of Portuguese ship, one of which, bearing a load of Chinese ware was captured by the Dutch in the Straits of Malacca and taken to Amsterdam in 1603. The majority of the Mings in the palace collection are from the Ching-te Chen. kilns in the province of Kiangsi.

There are some from the kilns of Fukien, mainly inferior patterned blue and white plates and lugged pots - four round lugs on the shoulder, brown glazed ware decorated with white slip brushwork, ware of Celadon tones and white ware. Named "Swatov ware" by Chinese merchants after a port in southeast China opened to foreign trade after 1860, when it became an important trade center, this ware was made for export and tended to follow market trends. Hence the pieces inscribed in Arabic with verses from the Koran in the palace collection.

The earliest examples of Ming white ware in the collection date from the beginning of the 15th century. These are either plain white glazed porcelain or slightly incised under the glaze to form a pattern. Another group of monochrome ware of the Ming period also represented here is the mainly plain yellow glazed porcelain, a certain number unmarked, but some of which bear the marks of Hung- chih (1488-1505) and Cheng-te (1506- 1521).

Polychrome ware with blue underglaze and red, yellow, green and turquoise overglaze brushwork dates from the beginning of the 16th century to the 17th century. It was a practice in Istanbul to encrust Chinese porcelain after the second half of the 16th and 17th centuries with precious stones mounted in stylized metal floriate forms such as the rose, tulip, carnation, pomegranate and plum blossom.

A group of transition ware mad (export in the first half of the 17th century is worth mentioning. Dating from period between the death of Ming Emperor Wan-li in 1619 and the reopening of imperial porcelain factories by the se ( emperor of the Ch'ing dynasty- K'ang'hsi (1662-1722) , this was a semi-opaque white glazed ware with motifs of a pictorial nature-views, figures flowers-wrought in the purplish-blue underglaze pigment known as 'violet milk' characteristic of this ware. Gene in the form of vases, this ware has distinction of being the first Chinese porcelain to bear a tulip motif.

Alongside blue and whites, o K'ang-hsi ware, namely 'famille vert', produced at a time when the Ch'ing Dynasty had established stability UI the second Emperor K'ang-his (1662 1722) after a period of unrest, and v the imperial porcelain factories had been re-opened in 1683 after a period of idleness. Famille vert, combining underglaze and overglaze enamel tones, and named after the propensity for green as predominant palette color, is represented in the collection.

Chinese "Imari" ware of the s period is not to be overlooked. Influenced by the polychrome Japanese Imari porcelain named after the Japanese near Arita from which the porcelain of that region was exported, the Chinese derivatives are characteristically painted in underglaze blue, overglaze red and gilt.

Later blue and whites produced during the reigns of K'ang-hsi's subsequent successors Yung-cheng (1123-1735), and noticeably under the influence of K'ang-hsi and early Ming blue and whites are also represented in the collection, as are porcelain of the 'famille rose', a group of ware in which the palette of enamels was expanded to include rose pink, and which appeared, noticeably influenced by European ware, in the mid - 18th century.

The numerous pieces of porcelain in the collection were used during the Ottoman period to create composite ware, which was embellished with metalwork or encrusted with precious stones in accord with Ottoman taste, or even transformed into vessels of an entirely different sort with the addition of metal parts. The gold, silver and gilded copper or tombak lids attached to Chinese vases are typical of Ottoman metalwork of various periods.

Celadon Series (10th - 14th centuries)
This contains the oldest and the most valuable porcelain pieces of the whole collection. Because of the name of the export harbour, Martaban in Burma, these precious pieces were called Mertabani by the Ottomans. Celadon is mainly made of jade powder and kaolin. It was said that if items made of celadon were exposed to poisoned foods, the colour would change and the glaze siplinter. Although these celadon pieces were used frequently by the Sultans because of their particular features, they have not lost their glaze and quality. They date from the period of the Ming, Yuan and Sung dynasties.

Blue-White Series (14th - 19th centuries)
These form the largest part of the collection and mostly date from the Ming dynasty. They have a background of white, on which is decorated in cobalt blue, landscapes, dragons, animal and flower motifs, and they often carry the monogram of the royal family. Interesting examples are the pieces ordered for the Sultans on which can be seen Koran verses and Arabic lettering. Silver, gold and "tombak (a zinc and copper mixture)" additions to the porcelain, such as handles, lids, and other decorations, were  done by palace craftsmen and dictated by the taste of the sultan.

Colourful Series (16th - 18th centuries)
Most of the pieces in this series are from the Later Ming dynasty period. Their main patterns use stylized flower motifs with red, yellow, blue and turquoise colurs. Some of these porcelain pieces, specifically from the 16th - 17th centuries, have in their hollows, inlays of wire and stone.

JAPANESE PORCELAIN (17th - 19th centuries)

With almost 730 pieces of Japanese porcelain dating from the 17 - 19th centuries. This section forms a very small portion of the porcelain collection of the palace. In general the porcelain in this group is very colourful and was manufactured as an export product in accordance with European taste. These are mainly Imari ware produced in and around Arita in southern Japan, a polychrome ware made solely for export and to western taste.

It was made in southern Japan at Arita, and called "Imari" after the name of the export harbour. Although there are also some Japanese blue and whites, also from Arita, which bear the influence of the so-called 'Kraak' ware of the Wan-li period.


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 Yıldız Palace. There is also some curious meerschaum ware in the collection.

The Istanbul Glass and Porcelain Ware collection is made up of approximately 2,000 pieces, with a large part of the collection being exhibited in the palace kitchens and in the Sherbet Chamber (Şerbethane) and the Confectionery House (Helvahane), which are connected to one another.

The porcelain is from two late Ottoman factories, both in Istanbul, the so-called Eser-i Istanbul ware being produced at Beykoz, and Ay-Yıldız ware at the imperial factory at Yıldız. 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-Yıldız ware, also a luxury ware, was the product of the Imperial Factory or Fabrika-i Hümayun 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-Yıldız" ware in Topkapi belonged to the Yıldız 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.

The production of glass in Istanbul began with the Mevlevi dervish Mehmet Dede, who was sent to Italy by Sultan Selim III (r. 1789–1807) to learn glassmaking techniques; having studied these techniques in Venice, Mehmet Dede returned to Istanbul, where he began making glass pieces that, though at first resembling the glass products of Venice, soon began to show a distinct Istanbul style.

In the glass workshops that were founded in Beykoz and that became synonymous with Istanbul glassmaking from the 19th century onwards, three different techniques were used: çeþm-i bülbül (eye of the nightingale) glass; opaline glass; and crystal and transparent glass. Of these, it is çeşm-i bülbül glass "in which colored sticks of glass are bound with the body of the glass piece and then twisted" that is most identified with Beykoz glass.

The Ottoman porcelains in the collection, which were highly valuable and thus designed exclusively for use in the palace, can be classed into two separate groups: those branded as Eser-i İstanbul (Product of Istanbul), and Yıldız porcelains. The Eser-i İstanbul porcelains were the first Ottoman porcelains to be produced, beginning production in the time of Sultan Abdülmecid (r. 1839 - 61) in the workshops of Beykoz.

The porcelain objects made in these workshops were produced using the underglaze technique and bear the "Eser-i İstanbul" brand on their bottoms; the color of the paints used to decorate the piece are typically the same as the color found in the brand. The production of Eser-i İstanbul porcelains, which are distinguished by their patterns of large flowers, lasted just thirty years before production was ended due to ongoing financial difficulties.

Yıldız porcelains comprise the second group of Ottoman porcelains. Production began in 1890, in the time of Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876 -1909), in a factory established in the garden of Yıldız Palace; the name of the factory was the Imperial Yıldız Factory of Chinaware (Yıldız Çini Fabrika-ı Hümayûn). Though the Yıldız porcelains were primarily produced to satisfy the need for porcelain of the palace residents, they were also given as gifts to foreign statesmen and high-level Ottoman dignitaries. Additionally, Yıldız porcelains were sent to the kings, queens, tsars, and tsarinas of Europe as gifts of state, and can still be found in European palaces today, albeit in small numbers.


The palace's European glassware collection comprises basin and pitcher sets, candy bowls, covered bowls, large and small plates, carafes and glasses, sherbet glasses and pitchers, coffee cups and holders, chandeliers, and candelabra.

Bohemian glass and crystal make up an especially important part of the collection. Beginning in the first half of the 17th century, a new variety of glass began to be manufactured in Bohemia using a technique that revolutionized the glassmaking industry. Among the works in this collection is a set consisting of a decanter and six glasses, produced expressly for Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876 - 1909) by Ludwig Moser, who worked at the Bohemia Glassworks between 1857 and 1893. The palace collection also includes French, English, and Russian glassware.

European porcelain is displayed it the gallery above the silverware section There are over 5,000 pieces in the collection, the majority of which in comprised of diplomatic gifts to the Ottoman sultans. We know that Chinese porcelain was exported by the Mongols of the 9th and l0th centuries and utilized in the Ottoman palaces by the 14th century, but it was not until the discovery of kaolin, which is one of the basic ingredients of porcelain, near Colditz by the German chemist Bottger, in 1709-10.

It was then that hard clay porcelain started to be manufactured, whereas it soon captured the European market. Early Meissen ware, the first hard porcelain produced on order during the J.G. Horold period (1720- 31) from the new Meissen factory (the Saxony royal factory founded by the Polish monarch Augustus II) , was the first ware to reach Turkey in quantity as it became fashionable both here and in Europe. The Palace collection includes tureens, plates and cups from that period.

A number of pieces show some signs of Chinese and Japanese influence especially in the choice of Chinoiserie patterns. Ware of the subsequent period, that of Harold and Kaendler (1731-40) includes cups and sugar bowls and a certain amount of ware made especially for Turkey, the finest of which were made by order for the court, and are now on display in the Palace. Rococo (1745-63) and Marcolini ware, (1774-1814) is also represented here.

Artifacts from the Berlin Royal Porcelain Factory, the second most important center of porcelain in Germany for the period include a large clock mounted on a base with two candlesticks and dated 1857, tea sets and fruit bowls marked K.P.M. One of the more important pieces in the collection is a large vase from the Nymphenburg factory founded in 1753, decorated by the Munich academician, Carl Heinzman in 1836 and presented the following year to Mahmut II by the Prince of Bavaria.

Among other important artifacts are some Du Paquier ware, early pieces from the Viennese factory founded in 1718 in what was then second most important European center of so-called hard paste porcelain. The Istanbul pieces, a bowl and ewer dated 1730-35 were made for the oriental market. Later Viennese ware dating from the last reign of the Austrian monarchy (1805-1864) were also of the kind made on order for oriental markets.

These include a number of lidded pots, chargers, sweetmeat vessels (for sherbet) and plates bearing the mark of the Hapsburgs- a shield, which were acquired from the Istanbul market. The Palace collection also boasts a number of examples of French porcelain, in particular soft paste ware produced in Vincennes from 1738 to 1756, and later in Sevres alongside Sevres hard-paste ware, after the Vincennes factory was transferred there in 1756.

The earliest piece in the collection is a soft paste vase dated 1816, decorated by Gilbert Drouet (1785-1825) .Other important pieces include jardinieres marked Charles X ( 1829-30) , the so- called 'forest' service bearing the mark of Louis Philippe (1830-48) and a compote set with the same mark. One interesting piece in biscuit ware is a statuette of a stag hunt and a horn-blower, while there are also some lidded jars originating from a Paris workshop which are encrusted with precious stones, and some Limoges ware of note.

Diplomatic gifts to the court include tableware and vases bearing the mark of Czar Nicholas I (1825-55) and made in the Moscow imperial factories, an assortment of European ceramics, and a set of ceramic tableware made in the Polish royal factory at Warsaw, the latter presented to Sultan Abdulhamit I (1770-1780) by the Polish monarch Stanislas Paniatowski in 1778.

Other ceramics of interest are a blue and white flask bearing an oriental pattern with a silver lid, the product of Delph (1691-1721), a Falco ware ewer from Savona and various ceramic vessels from French, Spanish and German factories.


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