Fountain and sabil of Ahmed III
Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Hegira 1141 / AD 1729
The name of the architect is unknown, but it is inferred that the structure was built during the time when the head-architect at the Topkapı Palace was Mehmed Agha of Kayseri, who also gilded the alems (standards) and latticework of this Fountain.
Sultan Ahmed III (AH 1115–42/ AD 1703–30).
The Fountain of Ahmed III is located between the Bab-ı Hümayun (the Imperial Gate of Topkapı Palace) and Ayasofya Museum. It is a square structure with a sabil in each corner. In the centre is an octagonal water tank encircled by a corridor.
In the centre of each façade there is a fountain crowned with a pointed arch and flanked with a niche crowned with muqarnas on both sides. On the rear side, the niches are replaced with two doorways providing access to the sabils.
Each of the semi-circular corner sabils has a low wall-surround of about one meter; the walls support four columns connected to each other with multifoil arches. The arches in between the columns are closed off by metal latticework. The walls that continue above the latticework are also semi-circular.
The entire structure has a timber roof protruding in wide eaves. Plated with lead, the roof is crowned with five domes, a large one in the centre and four smaller ones above the sabils. These timber domes rise on octagonal drums. The domes are also plated with lead and crowned with gilded bronze standards. The decorative schema is evidently based on horror vacui. The marble facades are entirely decorated with various motifs from both Turkish and European art.
On the façades, the horizontal bands of muqarnas,arabesquesand palmettes as well as the foliate compositions around the fountains are noteworthy. Flowers in a vase executed in low-relief are found on both the façades and the lower walls of the sabils. The use of decorative tiles and calligraphic script, together with the tulip motifs on the latticework, are also exceptional. The wide, timber eaves have decorative woodwork. The upper sections of the façades are decorated with compositions of coffers, while above the corner sabils are various floral and fruit compositions.
Many fountains and sabils were built in the so-called 'Tulip Era' (AH 1130–42 / AD 1718–30), when the Westernisation period of Ottoman art began. Fountains, which up until this period had been placed on walls or in courtyards, now started to be built as independent structures. As new elements in the city's silhouette, such fountains and sabils are seen as the first structures to reveal the foreign influence on Ottoman architecture. The most monumental of the square fountains, the Fountain and Sabil of Ahmed III with its design and decorative programme is an important structure revealing the transition from the Classical Ottoman period to that of Westernisation period.
Ottoman fountains built in public squares, of which the Fountain of Ahmed is an important example, assumed a monumental character in the AH 12th / AD 18th century. On each of the four corners is a sabil (water-dispensary kiosk) and in the centre of each of the four sides is a fountain. Located in front of the Imperial Gate of Topkapı Palace, it is an important example of the so-called Tulip Era with its wide eaves and rich decoration.
The inscription on the fountain itself and on the sabils is a qasidah by Seyyid Vehbi. It is inferred from this inscription that the structure was built on the suggestion of Damat Ibrahim Pasha of Nevşehir, the grand vizier, in AH 1141/ AD 1729. The couplet giving the date was composed by Sultan Ahmed III himself. A document dated to Ramadan 1141 (April 1729) provides evidence that there was a demand for local pure white, veinless marble from Marmara Island, indicating that the structure had not yet been completed by this date.
Eyice, S., “Ahmed III çeşmesi”, Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Ansiklopedisi [Encyclopedia of Islam by the Religious Affairs Foundation of Turkey], Vol. 2, 1989, p.9.
Kumbaracılar, İ., İstanbul Sebilleri [Sabils of Istanbul], Istanbul, 1938, p.8.
Tanışık, İ. H., İstanbul Çeşmeleri I [Fountains of Istanbul I], Istanbul, 1943.
İnci Kuyulu Ersoy "Fountain and sabil of Ahmed III" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tr;Mon01;33;en
Prepared by: İnci Kuyulu Ersoyİnci Kuyulu Ersoy
İnci Kuyulu Ersoy is Head of Western and Contemporary Art, Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir. She was born in Nazilli, Turkey, in 1957. She graduated from TED Ankara College in 1976 and from Hacettepe University, Social and Management Sciences Faculty, Department of History of Art in 1980. She received her MA in 1982 and her Ph.D. in 1989 from Ankara University, Faculty of Linguistics and History-Geography, Department of Art History.
She was appointed as research assistant to the Department of Art History, Ege University. She became assistant professor in 1989, associate professor in 1994 and full professor in 2000 at the same university. She is also Head of Turkish Art History at the Institute for Research on the Turkic World. She has researched and published widely on Turkish art.
Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood
Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions., İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu
İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TR 50
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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