Name of Object:

Marble cenotaphs


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

2536: Safar 893 (January–February 1488); 2537: Safar 899 (November–December 1493)

Museum Inventory Number:

2536, 2537

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved marble.


Height: 92 cm, width 36 cm, length 123 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Aleppo, Syria.


No. 2536 is a covered cenotaph in the shape of a rectangular prism. The marble is carved in relief. The side panels, the cover, and tombstones at either end were prepared individually, and then assembled by slotting them together along open grooves.

The tombstone panels at either end of the cenotaph are crowned with large palmette-leaf motifs and have columns on both sides. The bodies of the columns are decorated with mihrab-niches with muqarnas hoods, while their tops end in grooved knobs. The front and back faces of the palmette leaves are filled with vegetal compositions with palmette motifs, carved in shallow relief. The tombstone has a four-line inscription in thuluth-style calligraphy which begins at the bottom of the palmette motif and terminates with another palmette-leaf motif at its lower end. The lower edges of the tombstone are shaped like grooved colonnettes with zigzag motifs. The cenotaph's side-faces feature an Arabic inscription in thuluth-style calligraphy framed in cartouches with rectangular lotus-and-palmette borders. On the bevelled side-borders of the cenotaph cover is a frieze consisting of a series of palmettes. On top of the cover, a motif of a lamp with a body in the shape of a six-lobed medallion is shown as if hanging from a chain. This motif is used quite frequently in Anatolian gravestones, symbolically representing the illumination of the deceased person's path to God.

According to the inscription, the cenotaph belongs to the wife of özdemir, the governor of Aleppo. She died in Safar 893 / AD January–February 1488.

No. 2537: The material, shape and details of ornament, except for some very small differences of surface decoration, are similar to those of cenotaph no. 2536.

The cover-slab of this cenotaph is decorated with a geometric network filled with split-palmette motifs as well as a water-reservoir to collect rainwater, from which birds can take a drink, in the form of a lobed rosette. The inscription says that the cenotaph belongs to the governor of Aleppo, özdemir, who died in Safar 899 (AD November–December 1493).

View Short Description

These two marble cenotaphs belonged to the Mamluk governor of Aleppo, Özdemir, and his wife according to their inscriptions. They were brought from the mausoleum of Özdemir at Ansariyya near Aleppo and stand out with their rich geometric and floral decoration.

Original Owner:

No. 2536 belonged to the wife of Özdemir, the governor of Aleppo; no. 2537 belonged to Özdemir, the governor of Aleppo

How date and origin were established:

The inscriptions on the cenotaphs give the dates when both özdemir and his wife died. In addition, Herzfeld (1956) documents that according to the inscription on özdemir's tomb, it was completed by an architect named Yusuf ibn al-Kamal in Rabi' I 893 (February–March 1488).

How Object was obtained:

The cenotaphs were transferred from özdemir's tomb at al-Ansariyya in the suburbs of Aleppo to the Tiled Pavilion (çinili Köşk), Istanbul, in 1907, as part of the initiative to collect artworks from across the empire. The objects were transferred to the Museum in 1941.

How provenance was established:

According to inventory documents, the cenotaphs were taken from özdemir's tomb in Ansariyya, near Aleppo in and brought to the Museum. For this reason it is probable that they were made in Aleppo or its vicinity.

Selected bibliography:

Ogan, A. and Kühnel, E., İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzelerindeki Şaheserler, Vol. III çinili Köşk'teki Türk ve İslam Eserleri, Berlin-Leipzig, 1938, p.10.

ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.172–5.

Herzfeld, E., Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, Deuxieme partie, Syrie du Nord. Inscriptions et monuments d'Alep, Tome 1 Vol. 2, Cairo, 1956, pp.387–91 (studies the tomb of özdemir and a similar cenotaph belonging to another wife of özdemir, who also died in Safar 893 / Jan-Feb 1488).

Citation of this web page:

Gönül Tekeli "Marble cenotaphs" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;tr;Mus01;24;en

Prepared by: Gönül Tekeli
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 43


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