Spherical Hanging Ornament
- Year: 1575-1585
- Location: Iznik, Turkey (possible place made)
One of the most outstanding examples from the Brooklyn Museum’s fine collection of Islamic ceramics is a large spherical hanging ornament from Ottoman Turkey. The sixteenth century marked the culmination of Ottoman Turkish imperial power and patronage of the arts, particularly under the ruler Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520–66). In the late sixteenth century, Ottoman ceramic production at Iznik (ancient Nicea) reached maturity. Created by the designers of the imperial workshop, or nakkashane, the design on this spherical hanging ornament is a harmonious combination of naturalistic floral motifs and stylized vine-scrolls and palmettes characteristic of the late phase of Iznik production (1560–1650).
Although the history of Iznik ceramic design is well documented, the precise function of spherical ornaments such as this one is more difficult to establish. Nonetheless, the absence of decoration on one side and the metal brackets on the top and bottom provide clues to the purpose of such objects. They were intended to hang on chains suspended from the ceilings of mosques and other religious structures and to be viewed only from a distance or directly underneath. It is unclear whether large spheres, such as this example, were made to hang independently or along with mosque lamps. In both Christian and Muslim sanctuaries in the Middle East it remains common practice to hang spherical ornaments of glass, metal, or ceramic, perhaps to symbolize the orb of heaven.