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:
Diggins from the Necropolis of Sidon fill five gigantic halls at the Istanbul Archeology Museums. A number of styles are represented, including recycled Egyptian sarcophagi, and the quality of carving is extraordinarily high throughout. Here are two more sarcophagi from the same room where the Alexander Sarcophagus stands.
The Alexander Sarcophagus is one of four massive carved sarcophagi, forming two pairs, that were discovered during the excavations conducted by Osman Hamdi Bey at the necropolis near Sidon, Lebanon in 1887. Originally thought to have been the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus (died 311 BC), the king of Sidon appointed by Alexander immediately following the Battle of Issus (333), it was demonstrated convincingly by Karl Schefold to have been made before Abdalonymus’s death, its still-classical manner uninfluenced by the style of Lysippos. Some scholars now believe the sarcophagus was made for Mazaeus, a Persian noble and governor of Babylon. Six Ionian sculptors’ hands have been distinguished, working in an Attic idiom, most probably in Sidon. It now rests behind glass at the Istanbul Archeology Museums. The quality, accuracy and detail of the carving is absolutely incredible and unmatched by any antique tomb I have seen anywhere. The sarcophagus was once painted — traces of paint can be clearly seen in several paces — and must have looked a lot like the decor of a South Indian temple.
The quality of design and painting on this plate richly deserved the painstaking gluing together of the thirty some pieces into which it had been broken. Other delightful pieces at the Çinili Koşk include this fanciful 16th century pitcher (missing a handle), dug up near the Grand Bazaar:
(what would you call this pattern? “Castles in the clouds”? “Earthquake”?)
and two very beautifully painted lamps:
Through an unassuming side gate one enters a small compound hugging the western wall of Hagia Sophia. The compound consists of five tombs, four purpose built and one adapted from the former baptistery. The two most beautiful (Selim II and Murat III) can be viewed in a special 3D program to be found here (do not miss this):
And since 3dmekanlar has done such a superb job photographing the interior, I’ll limit this post to a few tile shots.