Name of Object:
Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Date of Object:
Pen-cutting slab (makta), burnishing tool (mühre) and knife (kalemtraş): hegira 12th–13th century / AD 18th–19th century; Scissors (makas): hegira 13th / AD 19th century; case (kubur): dated hegira 1131 (AD 1718)
Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):
The case only made by Ali Üsküdari.
Museum Inventory Number:
قالب قص الريشة: L.T. 12؛ أداة صقل: 3371؛ سكين: 334
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Pen-cutting slab (makta): Carved ivory; burnishing tool (mühre): glass; knife (kalemtraş): carved bone and metal; scissors (makas): iron inlaid with gold; case (kubur): cardboard, leather, metal.
Pen-cutting slab (makta): length 19 cm; burnishing tool (mühre): length 16 cm; knife (kalemtraş): length 19.5 cm; scissors (makas): length 22.2 cm; case (kubur): length 32 cm, diameter (at base) 4 cm
Period / Dynasty:
Probably Istanbul, Turkey.
The pen-cutting slab (makta) is made of very finely carved ivory. The upper section features a depiction of a Mevlevi dervish's headdress on a pedestal, while the lower section has a tree in a flowerpot. The craftsman included the headdress of the Mevlevi order, of which he was a member. The burnishing tool (mühre) is made of glass. It is large enough to fill the palm of one's hand. The cutting edge of the knife (kalemtraş) is of metal, while the handle, made of bone, terminates in the motif of a hand with its fingers closed. The scissors (makas) are made of iron. The entire surface is decorated with vegetal motifs inlaid with gold. The handle of the scissors is in the form of two facing inscriptions reading 'Ya Fattah' ('O He Who opens!'), one of the 99 Names of God meaning 'God is the opener of all doors'. The case (kubur) is cylindrical and made of thick cardboard with black leather stretched over it. In the base there is a brass inkwell. The outer surface of the case is decorated in the naturalistic Turkish Baroque-Rococo style with spiralling branches and flowers in various colours and gilding executed in a lacquer technique known as Edirnekari .The case was made by Ali Üsküdari; its distinguishing characteristic is that it contains a reservoir for ink.
View Short Description
As the art of calligraphy continued to flourish, the tools and implements used for its creation became works of art themselves. Knives and slabs for shaving pens, paper scissors and cases to carry the tools deservedly assumed fame in their own right in Islamic art.
Pen-cutting slab (makta): Leyla Turgut (one of the first female Turkish architects); burnishing tool (mühre): Necmeddin Okyay (calligrapher, AD 1883–1976)
How date and origin were established:
The pen-cutting slab (makta) was dated on the basis of its craftsmanship and the designs on it because decoration with gold inlaid into metal is frequently encountered in the 12th–13th / 18th–19th centuries. Burnishing tools (mühre) were generally made of wood and seashells. Examples made of glass are encountered in the 12th and 13th / 18th and 19th centuries. The knife (kalemtraş) is dated on the basis of its craftsmanship. The pair of scissors (makas) is dated on the basis of both the craftsmanship and the design, especially the inscription 'Ya Fattah' which is seen in the 13th / 19th century. The case (kubur) is dated in an inscription stating that it was made by Ali Üsküdari of Istanbul in AH 1131 / AD 1718.
How Object was obtained:
Pen-cutting slab (makta): Part of the estate of the architect Leyla Turgut, which was donated to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in 1990.
How provenance was established:
These objects are thought to have been made in Istanbul, which was the centre of Ottoman calligraphy. The case was made by an artist from Istanbul, which suggests that it was made in Istanbul as well.
ölçer, N. et al, In Pursuit of Excellence: The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1993, pp.70–73.
Citation of this web page:
Şule Aksoy "Writing set" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tr;Mus01;43;en