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Imperial Treasury at Topkapi Palace Museum (Topkapi Sarayi Muzesi)


The Treasury


The palace originally contained several treasury areas. For example, in one room was kept the so-called “Ambassadors Treasure” consisting of the rich objects which were used by Ottoman representatives abroad, and kept here when not in use. In addition, the relics of the Prophet Mohammed, the Inner Treasury, and the Equestrian Treasury were each separately housed. It is believed that the original treasures of the Sultans were kept in the Seven Towers Gate section of the City Walls. The collection presented below consists of gifts of ambassadors, enthronement gifts, and purchases of the Sultans themselves. The largest treasure from the spoils of war was added by Sultan Yavuz Selim, whose seal closed the treasury doors until recent times in recognition of his accomplishment.

The artifacts of the treasure were deposited in closets and chests until the time of Abdulmecit. According to Palace laws, each Sultan was to visit the Treasury after his enthronement. When Abdulmecit made the customary visit he ordered that some of the items should be placed on exhibit during the Crimean War. Following in his steps, Abdulaziz and Abdulhamit II. also exhibited some items. From time to time foreign ambassadors were also shown the collection. The sultan himself was alone allowed to enter the treasury, or in his absence, a group of forty men together. The collection was filled and emptied many times over because of the constant flow in and out of gifts to and from the courts of the world. Each year a gift was sent to the grave of the prophet Mohammed, some of which are now returned and seen today.


A Compilation of Ottoman Treasury at Topkapi Palace Museum


Treasury Salon I


Entering on the right one sees a case containing the amour of Sultan Mustafa III. The suit is of iron mail, encrusted in gold an precious stones. It offered full protection from head to toe, and included sword and shield and foot gear for his mount. In the second case are shown Koran covers decorated with pearls, for the personal use of the Sultans. Of particular interest is the cover in black velvet, decorated in pearls and carrying in the center a diamond “God Bless” and finished with three pearl tassels.

In the third case is the ebony throne of sultan Murad the IV., inlaid with ivory and mother - of - pearl, and covered in a fabric throw typical of 17th century Turkish handwork.

At the side, in the fourth case are shown 16th and 17th century Turkish and Iranian pots, vases, and water jugs. Opposite, in the fifth case, and belonging to the Egyptian Governor Mehmet Ali Pasha, are gold candelabras, and an 18th century gold water pipe belonging to the Governor of Van, Mustafa Pasha and several candle snips. In the sixth case, solid jade vases and ports, form a background for the diamond studded walking stick of Abdulhamit II., a gift of Kaiser Wilhelm. In the seventh case, belonging to the mother of Sultan Mahmut II. is a golden candelabra. A washing set and sherbet set, also in gold, belonging to Abdulhamit II. are representative of a high quality of gold work. Next to the door, in the eighth case is an ornate Indian music box. From here we turn to the central cases in the room, where are exhibited a large number of heavily decorated military items, in addition to many personal items belonging to members of the Sultan’s household.


Treasury Salon II


As one enters the room, on the right, in the first case are emerald praying beads, and arrow quivers of 16th century manufacture by Turkish artisans, covered in gold, measuring 35 by 67 cm. The quiver immediately in front of us is decorated in flower motifs done in diamonds and emeralds. In the second case at its top is a hanging pendant belonging to Sultan Abdulhamid I. of emerald, framed in gold. It is undoubtedly one of the most striking pieces in the room, containing three large emeralds shaped in a triangle, leaf patterns surround framed in gold, and 48 strings of pearls forming the tassel. Along with 97 other treasures, this tassel was originally a gift of the sultan to the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca, and was returned to Istanbul when Mecca no longer lay within the borders of the Empire, through the efforts of Fahrettin Pasha, guardian of the treasury.

In the same case is a six-sided pendant of emerald belonging to Sultan Ahmet I. The body sits on a six pearl foot, with each of its six sides framed in gold. The cover is domed in a gold lattice, encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. The old plaque at the base indicates that it was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I. in the year 1617 at a price of 6000 gold pieces. In the lower corner of this case, on a turban, is a 17th century plume-decorated with two five centimeter emeralds in length, formed on a heavy gold pin. Its top is decorated with two five centimeter emeralds and a garnet stone, framed by diamond-encrusted gold leaves, and loops of pearl chains. An additional pendant in this same case was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I.

In the third case, at the top, is an emerald pendant belonging to Sultan Mustafa, and an emerald dagger belonging to Mehmet IV. This dagger is a fine example of 17th century craftsmanship, being 31 centimeters in length, its handle of solid emerald, worked in gold an other precious gems. It was a present to the Sultan Mehmet IV. at the dedication of the Yeni Mosque.

In the fourth case of this room is a very eye - catching emerald pendant, 55 cm in length, with a four cm long emerald at its top. Beneath this a gold plaque decorated in diamonds, on either side of which are inscriptions to Sultan Abdulmecid I. At its base are round and hexagonal emeralds surrounded with pearls. The tassel at the base is of seventeen strings of pearls. In the same case are found bases for Turkish coffee cups and turban tassels and plumes. In the fifth case are feather - like plumes and quivers, the emerald quiver at the bottom being particularly lovely.


Treasury Salon III


In this salon are more diamond and gold works. In the case on the right of the entrance are Koran covers decorated in precious stones. in the second case is a dessert set belonging to the Sultan Abdulhamit, as well as a gold incense burner, and an enameled sherbet set.

At the top of the third case is a pendant carrying the seal of the sultan Mahmut II., itself of diamonds, on a blue and pink enamel background. The chain is of gold, and the tassel 45 strings of 38 cm of pearls. In the same case is a grouping of several very large, very famous cut diamonds. The broaches, rings ad other jewelry items here are equally lovely. In the fourth case, of particular note are the gold tray and gold incense burner.

In the fifth case, perhaps this room's most beautiful object, the spoon-makers diamond, is located.


Treasury Salon IV


The central object of this room is the Turkish and Indian masterpiece in its center, the throne of Mahmut I. A gift of the Persian King Nadir Shah, on a green and red background, its designs are of emeralds and pearls. Previously thought to be the throne of Shah Ismail, research has shown it to have been in fact a gift of the Persian king to the Ottomans. On the right in a case, are pots and ivory mirrors. Across, in a large number of cases, are swords, rifles, prayer beads, spoons, all extravagantly decorated. Of particular note is the box in which the mantle of the Prophet Mohammed was once kept.

As we leave this magnificent treasury, we pass along the from of the museum’s administrative offices to the Portrait and Miniature Exhibit Hal. The ground floor of this hall contains examples or art works from the Islamic world from the 13th to the 19th to the 20th century.


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