Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Topkapı Palace Museum
Hegira 7th century / AD 13th century
Cast steel, low relief and inlay techniques.
Length 41.5 cm, diameter (of mirror) 21 cm
This is the only surviving work of steel among the metalwork from the Anatolian Seljuq period. The mirror cast and inlaid with gold, bears figurative decoration in low relief. The decoration, which closely resembles that on Artuqid mirrors, comprises a medallion with a mounted hunter encircled by a border of animal figures chasing each other.
The hunter on horseback is inferred to be an important figure for he has a halo around his head. His round face, slanting eyes, long hair and costume represent a typical Seljuq nobleman. Details such as the falcon he carries on his left wrist, the knotted tail of the horse, and its raised right foreleg are traces of the Central Asian influence found in the art of the Anatolian Seljuqs.
The first example of such a composition in Islamic art is found on a ceramic plate of the AH 4th / AD 10th century. The greyhound with its collar tied to the horseman's saddle is interesting because in similar compositions of this period the greyhound is always loose. A bird of prey in the upper left corner and a fox in the upper right represent the hunt. The dragon motif under the forelegs of the horse recalls similar imagery in Central Asian frescoes and Christian iconography in Anatolia.
In the centre of the upper part of the border frieze is a pair of confronted dragons with knotted bodies biting each other. The axis formed by the handle and the pair of dragons is flanked with, respectively, a griffin with a bird's head and a lion's body, a bear, a fantastic creature with the upper body of a man and the lower body of a lion, and gazelles. The figure of a centaur, symbolising the zodiac sign of Sagittarius, normally has the upper body of a man and the lower body of a horse, but here it is depicted with the lower body of a lion.
Items of daily use no doubt provide the most important data on social life. This mirror, the only surviving example in steel, provides evidence regarding the social life and iconographic beliefs of the Anatolian Seljuq period.
Some of the metal objects attributed to the Anatolian Seljuq period bear the name of the craftsman and a date; this mirror does not have such an inscription (the naskhi script on the saddle of the horse is good-luck wish). The majority of works from the Anatolian Seljuq period with similar figures are dated to the first half of the 7th / 13th century; based on stylistic features, this mirror is dated to that period.
The work resembles those produced in southeast Anatolia in the Artuqid period. It is thought that it was produced by a master from Artuqid territory who moved to Konya in the Seljuq period.
Erginsoy, ü., İslam Maden Sanatının Gelişimi (Development of Islamic Metalwork), Istanbul, 1978.
Ettinghausen, R., 'The Islamic Period', in Treasures of Turkey, New York, 1966, pp.165–7.
Rice, D. S., 'A Seljuq Mirror', First International Congress of Turkish Art, Ankara, 1962, p.290.
Roxburgh, D. J. (ed), Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600, London, 2005, p.395.
The Mirrors of the Sultans, Istanbul, 1998, pp.74–5.
Harun Ürer "Mirror" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01_A;12;en
Prepared by: Harun ÜrerHarun Ürer
Dr Harun Ürer is an assistant professor at the Department of Archaeology and Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir. He was born in Ünye, Turkey, in 1970.He graduated from the Department of Archaeology and Art History, Ege University, in 1993 and started working as a research assistant in the same department. He completed his Master's in 1997 with a thesis entitled “Flatweaves of Emirdağ (Afyon) Region” and in 2002 received his Ph.D. with the thesis “Rug Weaving Activities of Foreign Companies in West Anatolia and Its Effects on Traditional Turkish Rug Weaving Art”, both at Ege University.
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 21
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Women | The Private Lives of Muslim Women The Ottomans | Turkish-Islamic Art in Pre-Ottoman Anatolia
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