Name of Object:

Ewer and basin set


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Original Owner:

Possibly Pertevniyal Valide Sultan (d. 1300 / 1883; queen mother from 1277–92 / AD 1861–76)

Date of Object:

Hegira 1286 / AD 1870

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gilded copper, known as the tombak technique.


Basin: height 12 cm, diameter 60 cm; ewer: height 30.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


A set comprising two pieces: a ewer and a basin that was used for ritual ablution. The basin is large with a flaring rim. The ewer has a pear-shaped body, a curved handle and a lid. The flaring rim of the basin and the body, lid and lower part of the spout of the ewer are decorated with lozenges formed by small grooves. Vertical and horizontal grooves in the lozenges also form square motifs. On top of the lid are a flower-bud and leaf in keeping with the fashion of the time.

The set is decorated in a gilding technique known as Tombak and engraved. In Turkish metalwork gilding, especially of pure copper artefacts, appears in the AH 12th / AD 18th century. Technically, this method of gilding involves spreading an amalgam of powdered gold and mercury on the surface of the object, which is then fired in a kiln. The mercury evaporates during the firing, while the gold powder adheres to the surface. Sometimes gold leaf is placed on a mercury-coated metal surface, and when the mercury evaporates during firing, the gold leaf is fixed to the object.

The inscriptions on the ewer and the basin inform us that the objects were dedicated to the Tomb of Pertevniyal Valide Sultan, and they give the date of AH 1286 (AD 1870). Pertevniyal was the second iqbal (lit. 'fortunate one') of Sultan Mahmud II (r. AH 1223–55 / AD 1808–39). When she gave birth to Abdülaziz, she ascended to the highest female rank at court and when Abdülaziz ascended the throne in AH 1278 / AD 1861 she became the Valide Sultan (Mother of the Sultan, i.e. the Queen Mother). She had a complex built in her own name in the Aksaray Quarter of Istanbul. It comprised a mosque, a maktab (school), a sabil and a public fountain, and a tomb which was built for her in the courtyard of the mosque and in which she was buried when she died in AH 1300 / AD 1883. The Museum owns several objects taken from this tomb, some of which are in this exhibition.

View Short Description

Gold has been the expression of economic power in all periods of history. Tombak is a technique that gives the look of gold to items and is used to decorate this ewer and basin set used by Pertevniyal Valide Sultan, mother of Sultan Abdülaziz, during religious ceremonies.

How date and origin were established:

Both the ewer and basin bear an inscription stating that they were dedicated to the Tomb of Pertevniyal Valide Sultan and giving the date of 1286 (1870).

How Object was obtained:

The ewer and basin were transferred to the museum in 1926 from the Tomb of Pertevniyal Valide Sultan in Istanbul, to which they were dedicated.

How provenance was established:

Both the ewer and basin were dedicated to the tomb of Sultan Abdülaziz's mother, Pertevniyal Valide Sultan, in Istanbul and, due to the fact that the tombak technique was used especially in Istanbul, it is highly likely that this set was produced there.

Selected bibliography:

Anadolu Medeniyetleri III, Selçuklu-Osmanlı (Anatolian Civilizations III, Seljuqs-Ottomans), Istanbul, 1983, p.305.

Citation of this web page:

Alev Özay "Ewer and basin set" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;tr;Mus01;45;en

Prepared by: Alev ÖzayAlev Özay

Alev Özay is an expert at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1942. She graduated from the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures of the Faculty of Letters, Istanbul University. She first worked at the museums of Tekirdağ and Kayseri. She attended Ottoman language courses in 1976–7 and restoration and conservation courses in 1982 organised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. She published an article on the “Turbe of Sultan Ahmet” in 1979 and in 1983 prepared the catalogue for the Exhibition on Islamic Arts in the 15th Century of the Hijra.

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 74


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Ottomans | Court Life

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