Throne of Sultan Ahmed I
Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Topkapı Palace Museum
During the reign of Sultan Ahmed I (Hegira 1011–26 / AD 1603–17)
Sedefkâr (‘mother-of-pearl master’) Mehmed Agha (died 1st quarter of the 11th / 17th century).
Wood, lacquered (Edirnekari technique), and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, and gems (emerald, jade, diamond, turquoise, etc.).
Height 285 cm, width 102 cm, depth 66 cm
Topkapı Palace workshops, Istanbul, Turkey.
The throne of Sultan Ahmed I is one of the best examples of 11th / 17th century Ottoman woodwork. Made in the form of a baldachin, the throne has three low steps that lead up to the one-person seat. The baldachin itself is crowned with a dome.
The throne was made by the important 11th- / 17th-century architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Agha, the head architect of the Ottoman palace; it is dazzlingly beautiful with a mosaic of superb mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell work side by side with countless precious gems.
The throne is made of walnut wood. Its entire surface is decorated with a mosaic of mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell. The vegetal decoration includes tulips, carnations, roses and peonies connected to each other by scrolling tendrils and rising from a vase. The vegetal motifs are executed in a naturalistic style in mother-of-pearl, while the remaining area is covered with tortoiseshell.
The inner part of the seat of the throne is decorated with a composition of motifs in a lacquer technique known as Edirnekari. Floral motifs in yellow are painted against a red background in the naturalistic style.
The floral motifs which reflect the characteristic style of the Classical Ottoman period are arranged in a most successful composition. The vase and the flowers themselves are further enlivened by the addition of precious gems, including emeralds, jade, turquoise, and diamonds. The use of precious gems in various colours makes the throne even more attractive.
The throne is one of many objects which display the wealth of the Ottoman Palace. It is an important example of the high level of quality attained in vegetal decoration in 11th / 17th century Ottoman art.
This magnificent throne with superb mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell inlay work and numerous gems was made for Sultan Ahmed I. The floral motifs reflect the classical Ottoman period and are successfully rendered in very lively compositions.
Sultan Ahmed I
The throne belongs to the Topkapı Palace; documents in the palace archive inform us that it belonged to Sultan Ahmed I and was made by Sedefkâr Mehmed Agha.
The throne was probably made in the palace workshop and is still on display in the Treasury section of the Topkapı Palace Museum.
The throne was made for Sultan Ahmed I by the head architect of the palace, Sedefkâr Mehmed Agha. Thus, it is highly likely that it was produced in the palace workshops.
Barışta, ö., “Geleneksel Türk Sanatlarından Sedef Kakmacılık (Mother-of-Pearl Inlaying, A Traditional Turkish Art)”, Türkiye'de Sanatın Bugünü ve Yarını (The Today and Tomorrow of Art in ), Ankara, 1985, pp.393-400.
Kerametli, C., “Osmanlı Devri Ağaç İşleri, Tahta Oyma, Sedef, Bağa ve Fildişi Kakmalar (Ottoman-Period Woodwork, Wood Carving, Mother-of-pearl, Tortoise Shell and Ivory Inlays)”, Türk Etnografya Dergisi, 4 (1961), pp.5–13.
Türkoğlu, S., “Woodwork”, Traditional Turkish Arts (ed. M özel), Istanbul, 1992, pp.42–73.
Sevinç Gök Gürhan "Throne of Sultan Ahmed I" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01_A;40;en
Prepared by: Sevinç Gök GürhanSevinç Gök Gürhan
Sevinç Gök Gürhan was born in 1972. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Turkey, in 1996. She completed her Master's in 2000 at the School of Social Sciences, Ege University. In 1998 She started working as a research assistant in the same department. She specialises in ceramics and tiles and is currently preparing her Ph.D. thesis.
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 69
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