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Tombak is the name to copper and copper alloy vessels which have been gilded with an amalgam of gold and mercury. This method of gilding was very popular in Ottoman times, and the Palace owned several hundred pieces of tombak. Since gold has always been a scarce and precious metal, this process made much less expensive objects look a lot more impressive. Moreover, it seemed to comply with the teachings of the Koran which preach modesty and refraining from extravagance.

The original discovery of this method of gilding is lost in the mists of time, but we know that tombak gilding has been very widely practised in Anatolia, where important deposits of mercury are found, particularly near the Beyşehir lake. The Byzantines already knew how to apply this process, and the Seljuks are known to have made tombak items, but the finest masters of this technique have undoubtedly been the Ottoman Turks, who used tombak both for everyday objects such as bowls, flasks, trays, lanterns, braziers, and for military items such as helmets, harnesses, and sword sheats.

The finest craftsmen were employed by the Palace workshop, but because of the toxic effects of the evaporating mercury the gilding was actually carried out by prisoners. Nowadays the process is carried out by electrolysis, with no danger for the craftsmen.

Outstanding works of art were produced not only for use at the Palace but also as wedding gifts or as part of the trousseaux of royal princesses and Palace ladies. It was traditional for Turkish families to prepare a trousseau of 200 pieces of copperware for a newborn daughter, and for the wealthier among them these would include tombak.

Some fine examples of tombak can be seen at Galeri Suav in Yeniköy, Istanbul.


The kaftans worn by the Ottoman sultans constitute one of the most splendid collections of Topkapi Palace. Some of them were so precious that they were given as rewards to important dignitaries and victorious generals during elaborate religious festivals.

Kaftan were often embroidered on the front and on the sleeves, but like everything else under the Ottomans, there was a strict hierarchical order in the colours, patterns, ribbons and buttons which were chosen according to the rank of the person to which they were presented.

While in the 14th century large patters and subdued colours were used, these became both smaller and brighter in the next century. By the second half of the 17th century the most precious fabrics were those with 'yollu'- vertical stripes with various embroideries and small patterns, the so-called "Selimiye" fabrics.

Most fabrics were manufactured in Istanbul and Bursa, but some came from as far as Venice, Genoa, Persia, India and even China. Each had very specific characteristics and was named accordingly: there was velvet, aba, bürümcük, canfes, gatma, gezi, diba, hatayi, kutnu, kemha, seraser, serenk, zerbaft, tafta, and many others; the most often used colours were 'China blue', 'Turkish red', violet, "pişmis aya" or cooked quince, and saffron yellow.

Galeri Suav is hosting an exhibition of paintings by Ismail Acar dedicated to these splendid kaftans.


The basic material of ceramics is clay, which is a kind of dense mud. The first examples of ceramics were found in the Eriha region of Palestine around 7000 B.C., in various parts of Anatolia and especially in the Hacilar region around 6000 B.C., and in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia.

The first ceramic vessels, made of mud-plastered baskets baked by heat, were used for daily chores. The ceramic “dough” was left to dry naturally after the kneading, pressing and beating process had been completed. The earthenware containers, originally shaped by hand, were thrown on hand-wheels around 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia. Later, wheels operated by foot, called “potter’s wheel”, came into use. The first decorations on pots were made by finger and by hand; later, other decorative methods were developed by applying layers of naturally colored earth.

Between 5000-4000 B.C. a new glaze was discovered, creating the effect of ash from wood or other substances on the ceramic clay. The glaze is a glass-like substance that covers the ceramic clay with a fine layer, and melts onto it when baked. Glazed ceramics have often been used in Islamic art. This art came to Anatolia from Iran and Turkestan and was used later by the Seljuk Turks.

Reaching its peak in the 16th Century A.D. in Iznik and Istanbul, ceramic art later flourished in Kütahya. After the ceramics created in the 18th century in Çanakkale, tiles and porcelain production influenced by Europe began during the Abdulhamid II Period in the Beykoz and Yıldız factories in Istanbul.

Porcelain has an important and valuable place among ceramics. Described as non-porous, opaque and white, porcelain is divided into the two basic categories of soft and hard. Although the word “porcelain” is derived from the Latin word “Porsella”, meaning mother of pearl, its country of origin is actually China. We know that porcelain was produced in China between 1122-770 B.C., but its production began only in the early 1700s in Europe. The famous Meissen Company was the first to produce hard porcelain in Germany in 1710, establishing a fine porcelain trade with France, England, Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Galeri Suav is proud to present exquisite reproductions of İznik plates, vessels and tiles.

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