London, England, United Kingdom
Victoria and Albert Museum
Hegira 1143 / AD 1730–31
Painted and glazed ceramic.
Height 360 cm, width 233 cm, depth 53.5 cm
A large tile ensemble forming a chimneypiece for a fireplace. The hood is formed as a cone with seven faceted sides, each of which continues down to form the arch surmounting the fireplace niche. A repeat of the chintamani motif of three circles and two wavy stripes provides the main decorative scheme for the hood and arch. The hood is set within a tall rectangular frame whose border contains intertwining flowering stems on a blue background. The spandrels on either side of the hood include white arabesques on a turquoise background, dark-blue arabesques showing European influence on a white background, and two large ceramic bosses. At the base of the chimneypiece, two side panels echo the chintamani decoration of the hood and arch.
A band of cartouches at the top of the fireplace arch, one on each of its seven facets, contains inscriptions with the names of the 'Companions of the Cave' and their dog. (One cartouche has two names, so as to fit in all eight.) The 'Companions of the Cave' (ashab al-kahf), also known as the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, are the subject of an ancient story which was repeated in the Qur'an (sura 18, verses 9–26). According to the story, seven Christian youths went into a cave to escape religious persecution and fell asleep, awakening miraculously several hundred years later. In later Islamic times the custom arose of hanging the names of the Seven Sleepers (as well as their dog, Qitmir) in one's house as a way of averting misfortune.
The fireplace was originally made for the palace of the Ottoman official Fuad Pasha, a building which burned down in 1857.
A large tile ensemble forming a chimneypiece for a fireplace. A band of cartouches contains inscriptions with the names of the ‘Seven Sleepers of Ephesus’ and their dog, names which were thought to bring good luck. It was originally installed in the palace of an Ottoman official.
One of the tiles has a short poem on it which reads, 'A man emerged to pray and said at once by way of a chronogram, “Here are Ottoman tiles apparent”'. The chronogram adds up to 1143.
Purchased by the Museum in 1891.
By the 18th century, the tile industry at Iznik was in a state of complete collapse. When the Ottoman court began to take a renewed interest in decorative tilework under Sultan Ahmed III (r. 1115–43 / 1703–31), it reconstituted the industry in Istanbul.
Lane, A., Guide to the Collection of Tiles, [at the Victoria and Albert Museum] London, 1960, pp.22–3.
Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.105.
Barry Wood "Chimneypiece" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus02;32;en
Prepared 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.
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: UK2 37
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | Court Life
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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