Istanbul gets very hot and very humid in the summer; the Northwest Room of the Çinili Koşk, once within the walls of Topkapi, was set up as a cool hiding place from the city’s summer heat. Windows and doors open North-West and North-East — the room never catches direct sunlight; and its walls have been decorated with dark blue tile — a pleasant rest for the eyes from the strong Mediterranean sun. The tiles were fired then painted in gold — a very lavish form of decoration since it does not last. A recent restoration wisely repainted only those tiles where gold had been completely lost, but left those which had only been partly worn untouched.
In 1590, a marble fountain had been set into the wall of the room to cool it further.
In 1904, Osman Hamdi Bey (the founder and first director of the Istanbul Archeology Museums, and the excavator of the Sidon Necropolis) painted the fountain:
The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul has a rich and very well displayed collection of Islamic illustrated manuscripts ranging from 8th century Baghdadi to 18th century Ottoman. I have placed the whole photo collection online here, but post herewith just a few tidbits to whet your appetite. The above is an 18th century Ottoman manuscript, in principle a ladies delight, but perfectly capable of pleasing a more-is-more kinda guy like yours truly.
The below is a close-up of a section of a page of a large format 16th century Shirazi (Iranian) Quran: note the loving detail of what is essentially barely visible “background”. Gold “ink” was added in a number of washes with different colors and transparency.
The next page is also from a 16th century Shirazi work. Although the Latin alphabet is more suitable for recording the vowel-rich sounds of the Turkish language, it is difficult not to feel that by abandoning the Arabic script, Turks have deprived themselves of a great deal of pleasure. I like the size of the letters, too: senior-citizen friendly. (Ahem). Five lines of text on a page approximately 18 inches high. The roundels mark ends of verses.
This is an end-piece of another 16th century Shirazi Quran, inscribed — crossword-puzzle-like — with the 99 names of God:
But this 13th century North African Quran is my favorite of the whole collection. How I wish all my books were as delightful to look at!
Finally, there is this: two parallel texts, each in a different color. Makes sense: why read one text, when you can read two simultaneously? For example, you could have Joseph And His Brothers, in black, on top, and As Maias in red on the bottom. Or perhaps you could have Joseph And His Brothers in black on top and a running commentary in red below: “Wow! This is crazy! This sentence is already 22 lines long!” and “How wonderful this amazing symmetry!” Etc.
This is the complete photo archive of the book collection on display at the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Istanbul. The files are very large (1.5 MB on average) and there are 89 of them, which is why I relegate them here; and only place a digest version on the front page of the blog.