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Dreams created in glass and porcelain
2003 / February

Nineteenth century Ottoman glass and porcelain is characterised by decoration influenced by European styles combined with traditional Turkish forms, reflecting the westernisation movement that gained momentum during this period. The finest wares of this century were produced not by traditional workshops, but in new factories established under the patronage of sultans and statesmen, as the Ottoman Empire sought to encourage modernisation of the coutry's manufacturing industry. Harnessing the traditional skills of local artists, the glass and porcelain factories produced fine wares for the palace and the wealthy classes that would meet the tastes and needs of Turkish consumers, and be able to compete with imports from Europe.

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Dreams created in glass and porcelain
2003 / February

One of the earliest such ventures with royal backing was launched in the early 19th century, when Sultan Selim III sent the Mevlevi dervish Mehmed Dede to Italy - for centuries a leading centre of glass manufacture - to learn the glassmaking techniques of that country. On his return from Italy, Mehmed Dede helped to establish the first modern glass factory in Istanbul, and soon glass was being made at numerous small factories in Paşabahçe, Beykoz, Çubuklu and Incirköy. Topkapi Palace Museum has a large collection of the beautiful glassware made at this period, including lamps, tulip vases, snow cooling jugs, rosewater sprinklers, ewers, basins, bowls, sweetmeat dishes, drinking glasses, coffee cups, mirrors and perfume bottles.

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Dreams created in glass and porcelain
2003 / February
Colour twist ware known as çeşm-i bülbül (nightingalren eye), opal glass painted with polychrome floral decoration, gilded cut glass and coloured glass in tones of red or blue with gilt and painted decoration were produced. Figures of birds are common, either purely ornamental or used as rosewater sprinklers. In 1845 new porcelain factories were established in Eyüp, Beykoz, Galata and Balat, producing what was known as Istanbul ware, with designs on either a white or straw yellow ground, and bearing the mark Eser-i Istanbul. These pieces are usually unsigned, although one in the Topkapi Palace collection bears the signature of a craftsman named Ali Zade Ömer Efendi. The Istanbul ware tiles in the collection are similar in size and whiteness to those of Europe, and have predominantly green and gilded designs on a white ground.
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Dreams created in glass and porcelain
2003 / February

The ceramic and porcelain factory established at Incirli near Beykoz on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus by Rodosizade Ahmet Fethi, Minister of the Cannon Foundry, produced both tiles and tableware with painted designs. Founded during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861), this factory produced porcelain of a quality equal to that of Vienna and Saxony, with designs in keeping with Turkish tastes of the time. The products of this factory also bear the mark Eser-i Istanbul, sometimes as a plain imprint, and sometimes stamped in red, blue, black, mauve, purple and gold. The plates, vases, lidded dishes, jugs, teapots and cups made at the Beykoz porcelain factory were expensive and of a high quality, intended primarily as luxury gifts. After remaining in production for 25-30 years, the factory was forced to close down as a result of declining demand.

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Dreams created in glass and porcelain
2003 / February

In 1894 another porcelain factory was established, this time under the patronage of Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876-1909). The idea is said to have originated with the French ambassador Paul Cambon. At this time France was renowned for its Sèvres porcelain, which was extensively used at the Ottoman court, and the new factory was to produce porcelain of the same high technical quality but designed and decorated by Turkish craftsmen. Known as the Imperial Yildiz Porcelain Factory, it was established in the grounds of Yildiz Palace, and its products were at first made almost exclusively for the court. The artists employed at the Yildiz factory signed their beautifully painted decoration, enabling us to identify them. They include eminent painters of the period, some trained at the palace studios, others at the military colleges (which taught art to a high standard and produced numerous outstanding Ottoman painters), and some at the Academy of Fine Arts.

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Dreams created in glass and porcelain
2003 / February

The vases, jardinières, plates, tea services, coffee sets, dishes, jugs and decorative wall plates made here were marked with a star and crescent. Their designs included not only western style landscapes and floral compositions, but also designs based on traditional Turkish motifs. One set of tea cups made for the sultan bears portraits of all the Ottoman sultans up to Sultan Abdülmecid. When Sultan Abdülhamid II was deposed in 1909 the factory was closed down, but reopened a few years later. In 1998 the factory became a working museum under the auspices of the Department of National Palaces.

* Ömür Tufan is Keeper of Glass and Porcelain at Topkapi Palace Museum.

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