Name of Object:

Qur’an cabinet


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira first half of the 10th century / AD 16th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Wood; ebony, ivory and silver wire inlaid, and painted (kalemişi).


Height 86.5 cm, width 50.7 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The body of the cabinet is four-sided and has short legs. The cover is in the shape of a dome. The wood has been decorated with ebony and ivory using the inlay technique.

The side faces of the cabinet's body are organised into rectangular panels. The interiors of these panels have the same designs as those found in bookbinding compositions of the classical Ottoman period. In the corners of the rectangular panels are ivory corner pieces. Cartouches with palmette-shaped lobes are covered with ebony. At the centre of each of the panels are ivory medallions in relief, each with a huge boss at its centre and pendants terminating in rosette and palmette motifs. On either side of the medallions are Chinese cloud-bands; while in the upper and lower areas are four six-sided rosettes. The interiors of the six-sided rosettes are decorated with mosaic-inlay of white and painted ivory and silver wire. Around the rectangular cartouches are inlays of ivory over ebony, as well as undulating designs featuring split-palmette motifs.

Around the bottom border of the cover, separated by lobed cartouches, are ivory cartouches on which is carved Qur'an sura 2, verse 255 in thuluth-style calligraphy.

The surface of the dome is covered with broad ebony and ivory plaques, the V-shapes of which make up a zigzag design. The dome comes to a point; its upper section is decorated with ivory inset with the reverse side out, a series of ebony palmettes, and six-sided rosettes filled with mosaics. The finial on top has broken off.

The cabinet was prepared in order to house sections of the Qur'an. It has five interior compartments. The interior of the dome is decorated with medallions made up of compositions of palmette and rumi (split-palmette) motifs painted (kalemişi) on a background painted cream. The inner border of the cover is decorated with black palmettes and rumis on a red ground.

View Short Description

This wooden cabinet was produced at the Ottoman palace ateliers to contain chapters of the Qur'an. It is decorated in classical Ottoman style and inlaid with ebony, ivory and silver wires.

How date and origin were established:

The enrichment of the surfaces, the shape, the technique, and the balanced use of materials all reflect the attributes of Ottoman woodwork of the first half of the 10th / 16th century.

How Object was obtained:

Brought to the Museum in 1914 from the Ayasofya Library, which was built by Sultan Mahmud I (r. 1142–68 / 1730–54).

How provenance was established:

The cabinet shows all the characteristics of the decorative motifs and compositions of the classical Ottoman Period, as formulated in the Ottoman court workshops. It is highly probable that the object was produced in the first half of the 10th / 16th century in one of the Istanbul workshops directed by the court.

Selected bibliography:

Atasoy, N. and Artam, T., The Splendors of the Ottoman Sultans, Memphis, 1992, pp.162–3.

Kunt, M., and Woodhead, C. (eds), Suleyman the Magnificent and His Age: The Ottoman Empire in the Early Modern World, Addison-Wesley, 1995, cat. no. 86.

ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.254–5.

Citation of this web page:

Gönül Tekeli "Qur’an cabinet" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01;26;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 GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 48


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Ottomans | Art in the Spaces of Prayer


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)