Monday 17 March 2014

The Tiles of Topkapi

As I suspect is the case for many visitors to Istanbul, our first stop on the tourist trail was Topkapi Palace.  It didn't disappoint and you should certainly take the tour of the Harem (though I still don't know how to pronounce it.  Is it Hair-EEem or Harr-EEem or Hair-em or what?)  But especially what I loved were the hundreds and hundreds of exquisite tiles.  Alors, my tour of the tiles of Topkapi.

First, the main entrance (not the Sublime Porte, just a very nice one.)

What I particularly liked about the tiles was that they were beautiful by themselves,

and in combination.

The most beautiful we saw were inside the Harem (also, does anybody know what the difference is between a Harem and a Seraglio??) which also featured intricate patterns of pebbles set into the ground.

(Lady Traveller's Little Sister looks mournful as she contemplates the passage the concubines travelled through when they were summoned by the sultan.)

Much of the decoration depicts flowers and gardens, whether in the form of tiles,

or murals.

The room of the Valide Sultan (Sultan's mother - a position of great importance) was particularly lavish though you couldn't help but notice: for all the stunning ornamentation and the frescoes depicting various pastoral idylls, the windows were few and either very high up or barred.

In some ways it was a relief to leave the enclosed spaces of the Harem and admire the real as well as the painted gardens elsewhere in the palace.

One thing you can't help but marvel over is the attention to detail.  There is some form of ornamentation on almost every surface, even on the undersides of the rooves.  

And around the lintels of doors ...

… and on the Sultan's capacious trousers (seriously, these were XXL and looked super comfy).

Despite the decor and despite the fact that women in the Harem received a reasonable education for the time (many of the more lurid accounts of goings on in the Harem owe more to fevered European imaginations than truth) I wouldn't care to have been a permanent guest of the Sultan.  I wouldn't mind having some Topkapi tiles in my home, though - or perhaps one of these.

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