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Spherical Hanging Ornament

Arts of the Islamic World

On View: Arts of the Islamic World, 2nd floor
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 12 3/4 × 11 3/4 × 11 1/4 in. (32.4 × 29.8 × 28.6 cm) diameter: 11 15/16 in. (30.3 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt
    PROVENANCE Possibly from a mosque in Bolu, Turkey; prior to 1898, provenance not yet documented; before 1898, acquired by Dikran Kelekian of New York, NY; before 1898, purchased from Dikran Kelekian by Charles A. Dana; February 24, 1898, sold at American Art Association sale of the Estate of Charles A. Dana, lot 196; between 1898 and 1943, provenance not yet documented; by 1943, acquired by Frederic B. Pratt and Caroline Ames Ladd Pratt (Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt); April 10, 1943, gift of Frederic B. Pratt and Caroline Ames Ladd Pratt to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Islamic World, 2nd floor
    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, 12 3/4 × 11 3/4 × 11 1/4 in. (32.4 × 29.8 × 28.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt, 43.24.8. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 43.24.8_view2_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE top, 43.24.8_view2_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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