Karatay Madrasa Tile Museum
During the reign of Sultan Alaaddin ('Ala al-Din) Keykubad I (r. hegira 616–35 / AD 1220–37)
2426, 2828, 2425, 1143
Ceramic; underglaze technique.
Height of each 24 cm (4 pieces)
Beyşehir or Konya, Turkey.
The star and cross tiles in underglaze and lustre techniques, respectively, that once decorated the walls of the Kubadabad Palace in Beyşehir are rare examples of Seljuq tile art in regards to their decoration and symbolic meanings. The star tiles were produced using the underglaze technique, while the cross tiles were produced using the lustre technique. Representing a wide range of figurative imagery, the tiles are decorated with scenes from the daily lives of the sultans and of the palace in general. In addition, talismanic fantastic animals that were believed to protect the palace, as well as various domestic animals and game (e.g. sphinxes, sirens, peacocks, lions, double-headed eagles, birds, foxes, rabbits, wolves, horses, goats, camels, and ducks) were also depicted.
In the Kubadabad Palace, the eight-pointed star tiles were placed together with cruciform tiles to form large panels. While the star tiles have mostly figurative decoration, the cruciform ones generally have vegetal decoration. The underglaze painted examples are decorated in black, turquoise and dark-blue under a colourless transparent glaze.
The figurative decoration shows good observation of nature, a lively imagination and a realistic style. The double-headed eagles are depicted in profile and cover the entire surface of the tile. Their bodies, in frontal view, bear cartouches with inscriptions reading 'al-sultan', 'al mu'azzam' ('the great'), etc. Generally framed with plant motifs, the double-headed eagles are thought to bear symbolic meanings. Used in various periods as both a coat of arms and a totem, the image of the double-headed eagle is ascribed many meanings such as strength, power, protective spirit, nobility, and wisdom. The double-headed eagles on the Kubadabad Palace tiles are thought to symbolise power, most likely representing the sultan with inscribed panels on their bodies.
One of the most important palaces of the Anatolian Seljuq period, the Kubadabad Palace is renowned for its wall tiles. The main theme of the tiles is the daily life of the sultan and his entourage and courtly life in general They reflect careful observation of nature and a wide-ranging imagination.
The Kubadabad Palace in Beyşehir was built by the Seljuq Sultan Alaaddin ('Ala al-Din) Keykubad I (r. AH 616–35 / AD 1220–37). Inscriptions and written documents show that the palace was completed in 634 / 1236. The tiles of the palace are dated to the same year.
Initiated in the mid-20th century, the ongoing archaeological excavations at the Kubadabad Palace have brought to light a considerable number of tiles. Once forming the decoration of the walls of the palace, the tiles were taken for public display to Karatay Madrasa Museum in Konya after they had been studied.
The tiles were found in situ at the palace but the place of production is not known. However, it is highly likely that they were produced at Beyşehir or Konya. The latest finds during the ongoing excavations suggest that they might have been produced on site at the palace.
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Önder, M., “Selçuklu Devri Kubad Abad Sarayı çini Süslemeleri (The Seljuq Period Tile Decoration of Kubad Abad Palace)”, Türkiyemiz 6 (1972), pp.15-18.
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Roxburgh, D. J. (ed), Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600, London, 2005, pp.392–94.
Sevinç Gök Gürhan "Star tiles" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01_C;14;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 28
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | The Visual Language of Power The Ottomans | Turkish-Islamic Art in Pre-Ottoman Anatolia
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