220. An Ottoman Hexagonal Plaque

Turkey, circa 1500 AD
Size: 17.5 cm, Mammoth ivory and wood

Download PDF

Apart from the elegance of design the plaque is notable for being carved from mammoth ivory. The Ottomans imported quantities of mammoth tusks from Siberia, through the Black Sea port of Caffa, for which Customs records still exist. They favoured mammoth ivory over elephant ivory for their building projects because it was more resistant to climate and weathering, and also provided larger slices. Tests revealed that almost 70 percent of the ivory inlays in the Suleimaniye mosque are made of mammoth ivory.

This type of design is found on early Iznik blue-and-white vessels of the ‘Abraham of Kutahya’ group, and on silver pieces made during the reigns of Sultan Bayezid II (1481–1512) and Sultan Selim II (1512–1520). Sultan Bayezid undertook the restoration of a number of shrines in Turkey, including the tomb of Hajji Bektash, and this superb hexagon was probably once part of one of his restorations.

Provenance: Ispenian Collection