SILVER ARTWORK AND JEWELRY
Most of the silverware in the Topkapi Palace collection was made by palace silversmiths from the 16th century onwards. The many silversmiths, goldsmiths and jewelers at the palace were members of the palace guild of craftsmen, the ehl-i hiref. They worked under the auspices of the chief treasurer. Palace records and inventories show that the pieces in the collection today are only a fraction of what once existed. The reason for this depletion is that when the state was pressed for money, either in times of war or to meet the expenses of accessions and other celebrations, resort would be made to melting down some of the silver and gold ware in the treasury for minting coins.
The earliest of all the silver in the palace treasury are a circular tray and bowl bearing the monogram of Sultan SÃ¼leyman the Magnificent (1520-1566). The collection includes sets of ewers and basins, rose water sprinklers, censers, writing boxes, candlesticks, candle snuffers, food trays, coffee trays, filigree coffee cup, a child's rattle and water cup, dessert sets, sherbet jugs, bowls, braziers, hand and wall mirrors, Koran cases encrusted with diamonds, lanterns, dishes of many shapes and sizes, jewel boxes, and cutlery.
The Turkish love of flowers is reflected in the decorative arts, and silverware was adorned with similar motifs. On early pieces dating from the 16th century we find scrolling branches, rumi leaves and blossoms known as hatayi typical of the period, and on later pieces roses, carnations, tulips, narcissi and other garden flowers, cypresses and pomegranates. From the 17th century onwards Western influence gradually became apparent in Ottoman art, first in floral bouquets and towards the end of the 18th century in the large curving leaves, roses in baskets, garlands, bows and vertical fluting typical of what is called Turkish rococo style. Characteristic of the 19th century are small flowers on a matted ground, although the classical period carnations and pomegranates (depicted cracking open) are also still found. Another frequent motif is fluted lozenges over a basketwork ground. Repoussé, openwork, engraving and filigree were the most usual techniques of silver ornament.
Reference: Göksen Sonat / Skylife
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):