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TOPKAPI PALACE COLLECTIONS

Topkapi Palace contain many treasury areas where a glittering collection of treasures are kept. The treasures consist of enthronement gifts, gifts of ambassadors, purchases of the Sultans themselves and items brought back as booty from succesful military campaigns, especially those added during the reign of Selim the Grim.

KITCHENS AND PORCELAIN COLLECTIONS

The kitchen buildings date from Fatih; the were surmounted by four cupolas. Under Suleyman the Magnificent they were enlarged by the addition of a supplementary section with six cupolas.

According to a document that has come into our possession, under Murad III there were 1147 cooks and scullions working in the kitchens. In the reign of Suleyman the building was ravaged by fire; it was reconstructed by the famous Turkish architect Sinan who added further buildings and conical chimneys. Kitchens, cellars, baths for the staff, made up the complement of these buildings whose function was so essential to the Palace. It was only after the new re-ordering of the place that the objects in porcelain, copper and crystal, constituting one of the richest collections in existence, were assembled and placed on exhibition.

Chinese Porcelain

The first room on the right is devoted to Chinese work the most ancient date from the 9th to the 13th centuries. These are the celadon, yellow or pale green in colour; monochromatic pieces, perhaps the only ones of their kind in existence. It is one of the rarest collections anywhere to be found, composed of several sets containing more than 10,000 pieces.

The Sultan Selim the Fearless and his son Suleyman the Magnificent undertook the collection of this porcelain. Young Sultan Selim after the Conquest of Egypt, had the porcelain treasures of the Mameluk kings, transported to Istanbul. Kanuni Suleyman made personal acquisitions and commissioned
various works in porcelain, which he collected. The remaining items were gifts presented to the sovereign. It is said that the celadon pieces change their colour when anything containing poison was poured into them. Such at least is the legend which has persisted into modern times.

European Porcelain

This is exhibited in Rooms 1 to 6. Cases 1 and 2. contain French porcelain from Vincennes and Limoges, dating from the 18th century. Case No. 4 contains vases with Napoleon's initials and crest; No. 5 is devoted to Sevres work, notably a deer hunt with six hounds pursuing the animal, a fine work of great delicacy, gift of Felix Faure to Abdul Hamid II. Vases of Russian manufacture are displayed in Cabinet 6. The French vases and earthenware from Fontaine-bleau are in cabinet No. 7.

The last of the cabinets contains a table service offered by the King of Poland, Stanislas Poniatowski (18th Century) to Abdul Hamid I, augmented by medallions and by the following words:

«ln gratitude and affection to the Turkish Padishah» : for we must not forget that the Ottoman Empire was the only state to refuse to countenance the partition of Poland.

A large vase on which is reproduced the figure of King Charles XII, of Sweden who took refuge in Turkey after his defeat by the Russians, and other pieces of Stockholm manufacture, can be seen in Cabinet No. 9. These pieces of porcelain in Topkapi Palace contain like the pages of a book the glorious history of Turkey.

Cases 15 and 16 in the second room are full of German works, including the first products of Meissen (1720 - 1730). Case No. 18 contains Venetian crystal work (noteworthy) No. 19 contains pieces made in Vienna for the Oriental market; among these two basins, two pitchers, and two jugs with bronze taps for serving sherbet are particularly worthy of mention (1730). In case No. 20, ten jam pots with diamond-studded lids, Paris workmanship, are very valuable. Bohemian crystal work is on display in cases 22 and 23. In case 25 there are two sherbet cups of island crystal work (17th century), and a fine narghileh.

The third room contains 28 thick tubes of chased silver, enclosing messages of congratulation from the Indies in the year 1901 (messages from the population on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Abdulhamid II's accession to the throne). In addition to these there are three more containers in the shape of large coffers with drawers.

Cabinets 27 to 35 contain hundreds of silver chandeliers, plates, jugs, samovars, jewel-boxes, tobacco boxes, sherbet containers, trays, iceboxes, silver lanterns, as well as bibelots, coffee-services, writing cases and candelabras, all in silver and made in different styles, daggling to the eye. Cabinet 36 in the middle invites a few minutes pause. Here are displayed those objects offered to Abdul Hamid II on the occasion of his 25th jubilee. The Istanbul Syndicate of Coastal Shipping had a miniature paddle-hot made, flying the national flag, the star and crescent in gold on a background of red enamel. On the borders of the flags hoisted on the masts, are the dates 1876 and 1900, commemorating the Sultan's 25th Jubilee.

Topkapi Dagger In the same cabinet is displayed a large silver urn which is of special interest to German tourists, for coins of the currencies of all the different states of the German Empire are set into the sides; the cover bears the crest of the Germano-Roman Empire. This also was an exceptional gift made to the same sovereign. In cabinets 37 to 42 are further objects in silver and crystal: bowls, both-slippers, cups, jugs and a warrior in marble and silver. Cabinet 43 contains a coffee-service from Bokhara (Central Asia), and other objects from Asia and Europe.

SANCTUARY OF THE «HIRKA-I-SAADET»

This is a much revered corner of the Palace by virtue of the Mantle of the Prophet which is piously preserved and carefully guarded there, together with several other sacred relics.

Once a year, on the 15th of the month of Ramazan, this sanctuary was solemnly visited by the Sultan, the men of state and great dignitaries of the Empire. The building rests on arcades and is surmounted by our domes, beneath the first of which is the entrance, which contains also a small fountain with a refreshing water-spray; the wails are covered with 18th century tiles; beneath the second dome is a waiting-room: the next dome shelters beneath the arch of its vault the holy and precious relic: the Mantle of the Prophet; new rooms opened to visitors are decorated with beautiful tiles, predominantly pale green in colour. The doors and the gutters of Kaaba in Mekka, enclosed in cases of gold, are carefully guarded in special containers.

Inside the sanctuary, on the right, in a central cabinet ere preserved the relics of the prophet: a chipped tooth, a flask used in the posthumous ritual ablution, a hair of his beard, his battle sabres, the imprints of his feet and an autograph letter, of great value, to the Chief (Emir) of the Copts residing in Egypt, from the Prophet of Islam. Leaving this venerated enclosure, we see on our left the window of the sanctuary; the interior has an incomparable splendour seen through the stained glass of this window. A silver grill in the window protects the treasures of gold and silver and rare silks inside, which gleam before us, while golden lamps hang from the ceiling enhancing the brilliance of the pure silk carpets, delighting still further eyes speeped in the complete tranquility this holy place inspires.

Facing us on the right, an arbour, of pure silver claims our attention; its columns are covered with golden flowers in relief, pierced out on the precious metal. This work, which dates from the 16th century, is embellished with gilded designs; in the interior of this precious shelter, on a repository, rests a gold coffer in which is contained, under several embroidered cloths, the Mantle of the Prophet Mohamet, a brief history of which follows :

Very pleased with some verses that the poet Kaab Bin-Buher had dedicated to him, the Prophet took off the cloak he was wearing and laid it on the shoulders of the happy poet. At the poet's death, the King of the Emevi, Muaviye, bought the cloak from his heirs at the cost of 20,000 pieces of silver. It subsequently came into the possession of the Abbasid dynasty. Following the capture and destruction of Bagdad by Hulagu Han, the historic cloak was dispatched to Egypt and hidden there, where it became the property of the Abbasids, who were then ruling the Nile Valley. Yavuz Sultan Selim [the Fearless), during his victorious invasion of the land of the
Pharoahs, took this sacred relic as a prize and preserved it in the Ottoman Palace.

This historic garment, which has been the object of a great cult for 1407 years, made of black wool and has wide sleeves; it is 1 m, 24 in length.

On the tile-covered walls and in the four built-in cupboards various sacred objects are kept, such as the swords of the four first Caliphs of Islam and other motable muslim personages. A pot that belonged to Abraham, the carpet of Mohamets daughter, Moses's staff and Joseph's turban, are among the jealously guarded units. All these relics of a remote and mysterious era lie in this room.

Other Treasures

The armory contain outside-tents, swords and several bows, iron swords used by European crusaders, Ottoman chain mails and shields. The curved battle sword of Mehmet the Conqueror., complete with the scratches and nicks incurred during his many military campaigns, along with his talismanic shirt, which was worn under armor or ceremonial court robes, the diamond encrusted suit of chainmail designed for Mustafa III, the dagger of Mehmet IV, a fine example of 17th century craftsmanship, are some pieces in the exhibition.

The Imperial costumes of the sultans can also be seen in the museum. Kaftans and flalvars designed and tailored for ceremonial and ordinary use are displayed as well as a perfectly reserved kaftan once worn by Mehmet the Conqueror.

Spoonmaker's Diamond Topkapi Palace contains a collection of over 13000 miniatures and manuscripts; several examples of calligraphy such as the map of Piri Reis which is the oldest known map that includes the continent of America; the richest collection of Korans in the world which comprises texts of the Koran inscribed during the 7th - 19th centuries. There is a saying that: "The Koran was revealed in the Hijaz, recited in Cairo and inscribed in Istanbul." Calligraphy was used not only in manuscripts, but as architectural decoration, and some of the finest examples of Turkish calligraphy are to be found on inscription friezes on domes,walls,faience revetments and hanging panels and plaques.

Among the treasures are:

— A golden elephant with a burden of jewels, and below this a music-box of the 18th century; some cabinets display looking glasses of great richness, decked with cut diamonds and emeralds and encrusted with rare gems and precious stones.

— Among the jewels and gold ornaments two bibelots attract attention, both the work of European artists, the first a negro slave, work in miniature studded with diamonds, with a fine pearl in the shape of a fork in the lower part; the second represents a sheikh sitting below a kiosk; the kiosk is in gold and the sheikh's body a single huge pearl.

— Pocket watches and small clocks.

— The ebony throne of Murad IV (17th Century); in the campaigns of 1638 the Sultan carried it among his baggage and it was seated on this historic throne that he received his homage after the retaking of Bagdad.

— Saphires, some sabres; the saphires are remarkable for their clear blue colour. There is a jewelled aigrette with two great emeralds and a ruby said to have been made by Suleyman the Law-Giver with his own hands.

— A gold cradle decorated with jewels.

— The Kandjar, which the film Topkapi made known throughout the world. A special decor was used in the projection of this oriental dagger embellished with three emeralds and with an ingeniously contrived watch set into the base of the hilt.

— An assembly of beautiful spoons, in every colour and style.

— The caftans, turbans and plumed crests of the Sultans. Beginning at the left side of the cabinet the garments are ranged in order of the time the oriental styles first, remarkable for the splendour of the gems which adorn them; the more recent of the Ottoman rulers simplified their clothes, as one can see, adopting the western costume suitable to their period.

— Throne of Ahmet I, a very delicate and carefully finished piece of work, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, resting on four slender columns, surmounted by a circular dais from which hangs an ornamental ball in the form of a huge emerald, with tassels of choice pearls, each of them attached by clips entirely fashioned of emeralds and rubles.

— A display of writing materials and writing desks, enriched with precious stones.

— A golden coffer, covered with precious stones, which used to contain the poetry book of Ahmet III , cupboard would be a more accurate description in view of its size, quite half a metre high and half a metre wide.

— Some dazzling bindings in gold, covered with gems. From each hangs a golden censor covered with brilliants, and diamonds, terminating in a heavy pointed pearl.

— Golden lamp-trimming scissors, furnished with little receptacles for holding the burnt wicks

— Rosaries of all sorts and colours; pearls, emeralds, turquoises, coral and other gems. Some cabinets contain canes set with brilliants an rubies, notable among which is a very precious one made of plates emerald, together with a gold belt, costly armbands and a goblet of great value.

— Priceless throne of the Shah Ismail which by a miracle or rather, by force of arms , came into the possession of the victorious Turks. This historic throne, which is in the Indian Style, might have been brought by the Sultan Yavuz Selim (The Fearless) after the Victory of Chaldiran; however the Palace records make no mention of this. A more probable explanation is that it was offered as a gift by Nadir Shah of Iran to Mahmut I.

— A scarf formerly belonging to Abdul Hamid I, from which hang clusters of pearls and emeralds of normal size and sixfacetted; it seems stifled in its mounting of gold, and is as thick as a clenched fist. Three more scarves formerly belonging to Abdul Hamid I ornamented with a large octagonal emerald and a cluster of pearls; then a verse of the Koran traced out in brilliants and enclosed in a frame; finally two unique diamonds of great rarity - the "Kevkeb-I-Durii" and the "Sheboheragh".

— Women's broaches in branch forms, glittering on their black velvet cloth.

— The Spoonmaker's Diamond (Kasikci), universally known and appreciated, it is said that jewelry enthusiasts have
travelled to Istanbul only to admire this superb gem. It holds a special place of honour, its 49 gems in two ranks of brilliants fittingly mounted. This one piece occupies the whole cabinet. According to Rasid, the official historian of the period, the following is the history of this rarest of crown jewels. A tramp was scavenging in a pile of refuse at Egrikapi on the shore of the Marmara, in Istanbul, when he came across a stone of astonishing brilliance. He took his find and sold it to spoonmaker who gave him three spoons in exchange; the carfsman in his turn sold stone to a jeweler for 10 akces. But after examining the stone the jewelers quarreled among themselves; the chief of the corporation, informed of the disagreement, paid compensation to the two principal antagonists and took possession of the piece. The Sultan Mehmet IV, learning of the discovery of the stone, secured it for himself and had it cut. Thus was brought to light a rare diamond of 84 carats... and that is how this precious stone, fallen no one knows how into a pile of rubbish, has continued for centuries to delight our eyes.

— An ornament belonging to Mahmut II, with his monograms in brilliants, pastel coloured and seeming to anticipate modem fashions.

— In the middle of the room there is a ceremonial throne of the 10th century entirely covered with thick gold plating, decorated with various ornamental motifs in relief.

 
 

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