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Spherical Hanging Ornament

Arts of the Islamic World

One of the most outstanding examples from the Brooklyn Museum's fine collection of Islamic ceramics is a large spherical hanging ornament from Ottoman Turkey. The sixteenth century marked the culmination of Ottoman Turkish imperial power and patronage of the arts, particularly under the ruler Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520–66). In the late sixteenth century, Ottoman ceramic production at Iznik (ancient Nicea) reached maturity. Created by the designers of the imperial workshop, or nakkashane, the design on this spherical hanging ornament is a harmonious combination of naturalistic floral motifs and stylized vine-scrolls and palmettes characteristic of the late phase of Iznik production (1560–1650).

Although the history of Iznik ceramic design is well documented, the precise function of spherical ornaments such as this one is more difficult to establish. Nonetheless, the absence of decoration on one side and the metal brackets on the top and bottom provide clues to the purpose of such objects. They were intended to hang on chains suspended from the ceilings of mosques and other religious structures and to be viewed only from a distance or directly underneath. It is unclear whether large spheres, such as this example, were made to hang independently or along with mosque lamps. In both Christian and Muslim sanctuaries in the Middle East it remains common practice to hang spherical ornaments of glass, metal, or ceramic, perhaps to symbolize the orb of heaven.
MEDIUM Ceramic; fritware, painted in black, cobalt blue, green, and red on a white slip ground under a transparent glaze
  • Possible Place Made: Iznik, Turkey
  • DATES 1575-1585
    DYNASTY Ottoman
    PERIOD Ottoman
    DIMENSIONS 4 5/16 x 4 5/16 x 11 15/16in. (11 x 11 x 30.3cm) diameter: 11 15/16 in. (30.3 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 43.24.8
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Spherical Hanging Ornament, 1575-1585. Ceramic; fritware, painted in black, cobalt blue, green, and red on a white slip ground under a transparent glaze, 4 5/16 x 4 5/16 x 11 15/16in. (11 x 11 x 30.3cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt, 43.24.8. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, CUR.43.24.8_view2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
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    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (92%)
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