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Topkapı Palace Tiles

Topkapı Palace Tiles

3 February 2023

The Topkapı Palace, or Saray-ı Cedid, built on Istanbul's first hill, Zeytinlik, is surrounded by a 1400-meter-long city wall built in 1478 during the reign of Fatih. This wall, which converges with the Byzantine walls on the Golden Horn and the Marmara coast, is called Sur-u Sultani.

The Tiled Pavilion, built by Mehmed the Conqueror in the first courtyard of Topkapı Palace and considered the centerpiece of the ensemble of palaces, is now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. There are tile decorations on the facades of the building and in some Iwans and rooms inside. The tile decorations from the same period as the building reflect mosaic and monochrome glazing techniques.

The Murat III Chamber in the Harem section of the palace was built by Sinan the Architect. This building, the first of the independent chambers built for the sultans in the harem, is covered with İznik tiles from the floor to the base of the dome. The tiles show different groups of patterns decorated with navy blue, turquoise, green and fluffy red colors on a white background.

There are tile decorations on the sides of the door at the entrance facade of the Reception Room in the third courtyard of Topkapı Palace. The tiles made according to the colored glaze technique, dated to the first half of the 16th century, were applied to the facade of the building during the repair in the 19th century. Yellow and green colors were frequently used in the tiles, and one can see a similar application in the mosques of Sultan Selim and Bozöyük Kasım Pasha in Istanbul.

The Sultan's Room in the third courtyard of Topkapı Palace was built by Mehmed the Conqueror between 1465-1468. While it served as a place for the sultan to conduct his daily business and receive visitors, it was remodeled by Yavuz Sultan Selim for the holy relics brought to Istanbul in 1517 and largely lost its original architecture due to various repairs in different eras. On the facades and interior walls of the building there are tiles from the second half of the 16th century and the 17th century, consisting of panels with different patterns.

It is known that the Ağalar Mosque in the third courtyard of the palace was commissioned in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The reading room of the mosque, which was converted into a library after the palace was turned into a museum, where various manuscripts were collected, is decorated with tiles from the 17th century, while the mihrab wall is decorated with 18th century tiles from the Tekfur Palace. Naturalistic patterns are often seen on the panels. In the upper part of one of the panels there is a single tile with a representation of the Kaaba measuring 30.5 x 52.5 cm. This work, which is a successful example of the representation of the Kaaba, is similar to the composition found in the Hagia Sophia.

The Revan Pavilion, located in the fourth courtyard of Topkapı Palace, was commissioned by Murad IV to commemorate the victory of the conquest of Yerevan in 1636. The exterior facades of the Pavilion are covered with the best examples of İznik tiles from the 17th century, from the top level of the windows on the lower floor to the eaves, and the interior walls from the floor to the dome roll. The tiles here stand out for their size of 28x28 cm, which is different from the usual size (24.5x24.5 cm). The tiles have the same design inside and outside and show hatajis in shades of blue, turquoise and green on a white background.

The circumcision room, also located in the fourth courtyard of the palace, was built in 1640 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim. It is believed that the room, where the circumcisions of the princes were performed, acquired its function during the circumcision of the sons of Sultan Ahmed III. The interior and exterior walls of the building are covered with successful İznik tiles from the 16th and 17th centuries. In addition to the blue and white and multicolored applications, there are also tiles in colored glaze technique. The 126x48 cm and 125x34 cm monolithic panels on both sides of the entrance are remarkable examples of the history of Turkish tile art in terms of size and design (‘Anadolu Toprağının Hazinesi Çini’ Belgin Demirsar Arlı-Ara Altun, pp.97-129).


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