Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Probably around hegira 966 / AD 1560

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Wood, mother-of-pearl, painted and glazed ceramic.


Height 48 cm, diameter 63 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Iznik or Istanbul, Turkey.


A low table made of wood inlaid with cloud-bands and simple arabesque compositions in ebony and mother-of-pearl; set into the top is an underglaze painted ceramic tile with a centralised design featuring flowers on an arabesque framework, surrounded by a border with cloud-bands on a turquoise background. The table has 12 sides, to match the 12 sides of the ceramic top, but it is constructed with spandrel-like joins between the legs so that it stands on six legs.

This table is a rare example of furniture from the Ottoman imperial court, as well as a most unusual use of Iznik tilework. The beautiful, bright colours of the tile make a striking contrast to the subdued tones of the inlaid wood. It seems unlikely that such a fine piece of furniture would have been intended for everyday use; more likely, it was used as part of the elaborate ceremonials which defined Ottoman court protocol and impressed foreign ambassadors.

View Short Description

A table made of wood inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl, with a 12-sided Iznik tile serving as the top. A rare example of furniture from the Ottoman court, this splendid table may have been used in the elaborate ceremonials which defined court protocol and impressed visiting ambassadors.

How date and origin were established:

The technique, materials and style of the woodwork are similar to those found on the throne of Sultan Süleyman in the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul. The tile, too, is similar to those found in Sultan Süleyman's mosque (completed in 963 / 1557), though its size and distinct shape mean it must have been made specifically as a table-top.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1987.

How provenance was established:

Iznik was the centre of quality ceramic production in this period; Istanbul, as home to the imperial ateliers, may be where the wood was inlaid and the final product assembled.

Selected bibliography:

Mitter, P. and Clunas, C., "The Empire of Things: The Engagement with the Orient", A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (eds. M. Baker and B. Richardson), London, 1997, p.255.

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.103.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Table" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus02;36;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 42


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

See also

Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail

EARLY OTTOMAN ART - Legacy of the Emirates


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)