Name of Monument:

Fountain and sabil of Ahmed III

Location:

Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Date of Monument:

Hegira 1141 / AD 1729

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

The name of the architect is unknown, but it is inferred that the structure was built during the time when the head-architect at the Topkapı Palace was Mehmed Agha of Kayseri, who also gilded the alems (standards) and latticework of this Fountain.

Period / Dynasty:

Ottoman

Patron(s):

Sultan Ahmed III (AH 1115–42/ AD 1703–30).

Description:

The Fountain of Ahmed III is located between the Bab-ı Hümayun (the Imperial Gate of Topkapı Palace) and Ayasofya Museum. It is a square structure with a sabil in each corner. In the centre is an octagonal water tank encircled by a corridor.
In the centre of each façade there is a fountain crowned with a pointed arch and flanked with a niche crowned with muqarnas on both sides. On the rear side, the niches are replaced with two doorways providing access to the sabils.
Each of the semi-circular corner sabils has a low wall-surround of about one meter; the walls support four columns connected to each other with multifoil arches. The arches in between the columns are closed off by metal latticework. The walls that continue above the latticework are also semi-circular.
The entire structure has a timber roof protruding in wide eaves. Plated with lead, the roof is crowned with five domes, a large one in the centre and four smaller ones above the sabils. These timber domes rise on octagonal drums. The domes are also plated with lead and crowned with gilded bronze standards. The decorative schema is evidently based on horror vacui. The marble facades are entirely decorated with various motifs from both Turkish and European art.
On the façades, the horizontal bands of muqarnas,arabesquesand palmettes as well as the foliate compositions around the fountains are noteworthy. Flowers in a vase executed in low-relief are found on both the façades and the lower walls of the sabils. The use of decorative tiles and calligraphic script, together with the tulip motifs on the latticework, are also exceptional. The wide, timber eaves have decorative woodwork. The upper sections of the façades are decorated with compositions of coffers, while above the corner sabils are various floral and fruit compositions.
Many fountains and sabils were built in the so-called 'Tulip Era' (AH 1130–42 / AD 1718–30), when the Westernisation period of Ottoman art began. Fountains, which up until this period had been placed on walls or in courtyards, now started to be built as independent structures. As new elements in the city's silhouette, such fountains and sabils are seen as the first structures to reveal the foreign influence on Ottoman architecture. The most monumental of the square fountains, the Fountain and Sabil of Ahmed III with its design and decorative programme is an important structure revealing the transition from the Classical Ottoman period to that of Westernisation period.

View Short Description

Ottoman fountains built in public squares, of which the Fountain of Ahmed is an important example, assumed a monumental character in the AH 12th / AD 18th century. On each of the four corners is a sabil (water-dispensary kiosk) and in the centre of each of the four sides is a fountain. Located in front of the Imperial Gate of Topkapı Palace, it is an important example of the so-called Tulip Era with its wide eaves and rich decoration.

How Monument was dated:

The inscription on the fountain itself and on the sabils is a qasidah by Seyyid Vehbi. It is inferred from this inscription that the structure was built on the suggestion of Damat Ibrahim Pasha of Nevşehir, the grand vizier, in AH 1141/ AD 1729. The couplet giving the date was composed by Sultan Ahmed III himself. A document dated to Ramadan 1141 (April 1729) provides evidence that there was a demand for local pure white, veinless marble from Marmara Island, indicating that the structure had not yet been completed by this date.

Selected bibliography:

Eyice, S., “Ahmed III çeşmesi”, Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Ansiklopedisi [Encyclopedia of Islam by the Religious Affairs Foundation of Turkey], Vol. 2, 1989, p.9.
Kumbaracılar, İ., İstanbul Sebilleri [Sabils of Istanbul], Istanbul, 1938, p.8.
Tanışık, İ. H., İstanbul Çeşmeleri I [Fountains of Istanbul I], Istanbul, 1943.

Citation of this web page:

İnci Kuyulu Ersoy "Fountain and sabil of Ahmed III" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tr;Mon01;33;en

Prepared by: İnci Kuyulu Ersoy
Translation by: Barry Wood, İnci Türkoğlu
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: TR 50