Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ottoman War Academy Diploma

war academy diploma of ottoman empire
War Academy was one the prestigious schools of the Ottoman era and this diploma with an Ottoman coat of arms on top, is one the remnants of those days, dated 1911. No, it is not valuable because the school literally spit out officers to accommodate one war after another.

Nothing has changed much since then, except the names, of course. In order to superficially comply with the "peace" theme of 20th century, War Academy has become General Service School and Ministry of War is now called Ministry of Defense as in most parts of the world. Exegesis at its finest.

Dimensions: 74x50 cm.
Estimated value: $150

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chrysanthemums by Froidure

chrysanthemums by faux froidure, 20c
A still life of chrysanthemums by E. Faux Froidure, watercolor on paper. Dated 1902 and signed by the artist, it is a souvenir from passers by. Still life painting is the only form that I have a hard time to reconcile with. Not that I despise the work, but drawing still objects as if taking pictures of them is something beyond me. Show me the most abstract painting, I am comfortable, but figs or apples on a plate, no.

Dimensions: 95x120 cm.
Estimated value: $12,000

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bohemian Hookah

19c bohemian hookah

Now that we know pot is good for your brain, it is time to set sail to new adventures. Why not start with this beautiful Bohemian hookah of nineteenth century? Extraordinary designs with a silver laden top, it is a typical luxury item of Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861) era. Other than it is good for your soul, I can't guarantee anything else.

Height: 45 cm.
Estimated value: $7,000

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ferman of Sultan Mahmud I

ferman of mahmud I, 18c
Dated 1732, this ferman of Sultan Mahmud I can be considered one of the outstanding examples of Ottoman calligraphy. Considering it was written only for the ordinary task of transfer of tax collection rights to Esseyyid İbrahim upon Eyüb Sabri's death (none of them had any historical significance), the amount of work put in it is remarkable, it is like getting your tax return with a document like this.

Written in ruby, gold and black ink in celi divani style, enameled with gold flowers, it really shines.

Dimensions: 128.5x52.5 cm.
Estimated value: $45,000

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Catholic Missions Map

19c map of catholic missions in ottoman empire
Whenever I look at this late nineteenth century (1893) map of Catholic missions (carte ecclesiastique) in Ottoman Empire, I can not help but remember Mary Doria Russell's science fiction book "The Sparrow" with a naughty smile on my face, grinning a grin as they say.

In her award winning book (Best Book by British SF Writers, James Tiptree Jr., Arthur C. Clarke and John W. Campbell awards), Russell tells us about a discovery of an earth-like planet and the race to launch an expedition between various organizations and countries. To our surprise, the first to successfully organize a mission is neither United Nations nor a space faring country but the Catholic Church, the Jesuits to be exact.

As long as they do not pose an imminent threat to the dynasty, the Empire was generally tolerant to religious institutions and many missions flourished throughout the country. I really wish I had a higher resolution image of it.

Dimensions: 100x80 cm.
Estimated value: $1,000

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mira Music Box

19c mira music box
This Mira music box of early 1900s is good example of simplicity combined with elegance. You replace the punched steel disk and swim in seas of memories. Roll a cigarette and dream of cabarets, jazz, big bands, dancing men and women with fancy dresses of the era.

At least, that's what I do whenever I look at it.

Estimated value: $ 1,500

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chess Players

chess players watercolor on paper
Here is an anonymous (signature illegible) painting dubbed "Chess Players", watercolor on paper. It shows above all how time was perceived then. Look at the relaxed attitude of the players, enjoying their game without clocking it, their coffee and tea aside, comfortably seated on cushions.

Dimensions: 18.5x27.5 cm
Estimated value: $ 2,000

Ottoman Naval Society Matchbox

19c ottoman naval society matchbox
People have always wanted to be a part of something, be it a club, a society, a community or something similar. It seems we do not want to dispute the man who said "Man is a social animal."

So societies were created and in turn they used a myriad of items to strengthen the feeling of "being part of".

To your left is a matchbox distributed by the Ottoman Naval Society, late 19th century, to make their members feel special.

Dimensions: 5.5x3.5 cm
Estimated value: $ 200

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gold Enameled Watch

19c ottoman gold enameled watch
Historians and economists included, many tried to explain what triggered industrialization and why it failed to emerge in various regions of the world. Let me throw in my explanation:

The concept of time.

How we perceived time, or passing of it, was a crucial factor for mass production and specialization. Societies that had a relaxed understanding of time failed (now, this failure is subjective) to evolve from agricultural to industrial countries.

A souvenir from 19th century, a gold enameled watch: the ultimate instrument of precision timing and coordination.

Radius: 5.5 cm
Estimated value: $ 10,000

Friday, March 6, 2009

J. Wardale Compass

20c j wardale compass
There was a time when sailors were sailors; no GPS, no machinery. You relied on friendly winds to move you, stars to guide you during the night and a compass like this J. Wardale to find North in the day. Scary, eh?

Dated: 1918

Dimensions: 7.5x7.5 cm.
Estimated value: $ 300

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Devil's Creek by Mubin Orhon

devils creek by mubin orhon 20c 
Dated 1965, "The Devil's Creek" is the most famous painting of Mubin Orhon. It is a triple oil on canvas. 
I like abstract paintings and this one is no exception with its vivid colors and choice of red as primary color. It is refreshing to see that experts agree with me this time :-)
Dimensions: 70x150 cm.
Estimated value: $ 150,000

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cloisonne Vases

19c cloisonne vases
Ottomans were fond of China, all varieties and origins. Not only there was a lively local productions but a considerable amount of china were also imported like these Cloisonne vases of 19th century.

Sometimes I can not help but desire to touch these items, if only I had them, of course. Only zeros and ones.

Dimensions: 90x22.5 cm.
Estimated value: $ 8,000

Friday, February 27, 2009

Golden Horn by Devrim Erbil

halic, golden horn by devrim erbil
How about something more modern. Golden Horn as seen from Suleymaniye is an oil on canvas by Devrim Erbil, and dated 2006. What amazes me most is the accuracy of the buildings. The painter did take the time to reflect what was there at the time of the work. Patience?

Dimensions: 110x80cm.
Estimated value: $ 6,000

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Board by Raif Efendi

board by enderunlu raif efendi
I liked the colors of this board by Raif Efendi (Enderunlu). True, it is not one of the finest examples of calligraphy nor the most expensive one. Yet, it has a subtle beauty that captures my attention. I do not know why.

Dated: 1915

Dimensions: 28x34.5 cm
Estimated value: $ 350

Monday, February 23, 2009


bashibouzhuks by anonymous
Bashibouzhuk is a vague term used for bandits, robbers and similar free spirits :-) during the Ottoman era. They usually raided villages, hotels (technically they are called hans) and caravansarays (caravan stop-overs).

This unsigned orientalist pencil drawing is roughly 40 years old. Experts could not decide whether it is a copy or a reproduction.

Estimated value: $ 175

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fox and Grapes by H.G. Schlesinger

fox and grapes by Henri Guillaime Schlesinger 19c
Henri Guillaime Schlesinger's "Fox and Grapes" is a beautiful color lithograph. Dated 1850, it has the common characteristic of most lithographic pictures of the era: attention to detail. Considering access to Harem was actually not allowed, I can say these are truely the first scrapbooking examples. You draw the carpet from a friend's house, the curtain from somewhere else, ladies could be your relatives, and you end up with an imaginary harem.

Dimensions: 43x55 cm.
Estimated value: $ 300

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lottery of Greek Inas School

lottery ticket for greek inas school 19c
If you dig deeper, you always come across something interesting, if not valuable. Surrounded with all kinds of dogma, you do not expect to find lotteries, betting, etc in this part of the world, nor do you think it would have been tolerated. Yet, here it is. A lottery ticket to raise funds for the Greek Inas School in Besiktas Istanbul.

Dated 1914
Estimated value: $ 30

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ruba'i Board by Mehmed Esad Yesari

rubai board by mehmed esad yesari 18c

Ruba'i is the Persian quatrain made especially popular by Omar Khayyam. Since 11th century its popularity has never ceased in Asia Minor. Calligraphers loved them. Just like its Japanese counterpart haiku (which is three lines), its shortness and directness made it an obvious choice for artists who were somewhat restricted by religious dogma. Mehmed Esad Yesari's rubai board is dated 1791 and a good example.

Dimensions: 33.5x20 cm.
Estimated value: $ 1,500

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bohemian Candy Bowl

19c bohemian candy bowl

I have been to numerous countries. Well, more than average let us say. I have yet to see a more candy loving nation than Turks. Be it the Ottoman or the Republic era, this candy madness continued. Hence, the storage problem.

Can you picture yourself shopping for a candy bowl, rather a couple, one for kitchen and one for the living room, trying to find one like this Bohemian with a lower price tag?

From nineteenth century.

Dims: 22.5x23.5 cm.
Estimated value: $ 5,000

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Your Skin Deserves Better

advertisement poster of puro soaps dated 1955

It is somewhat sad to notice the advertising industry is unable to come up with something better than celebrities using their products. In this 1955 ad, we see Ayten Cankaya promoting Puro brand soaps and skin care products. I cannot comment on the soap but she really is beautiful.

Dimensions: 24x17 cm.
Estimated value: $ 50

Monday, January 12, 2009

Madame Butterfly Poster

poster, leyla gencer g.singer madame butterfly, city opera
The price theory rather vaguely says that since we differ in a value, we agree on a price. Soprano Leyla Gencer's poster of her Madame Butterfly performance in the City Opera (1950s) is an example. Just a few years prior to her departure to Italy, Gencer took stage in Puccini's renowned opera, directed by G. Singer.

It was again Madame Butterfly, this time in San Carlo Opera, that helped her achieve worldwide recognition. From San Francisco to La Scala Milan, she continued to increase the number of her admirers including me.

And the price theory. Look at the price tag and try guessing how much I value her. Do you think we will agree on the price? You bet we will!

Dimensions: 135x100 cm.
Estimated value: $ 200

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Portable Gramophone

early 19c portable gramophone
Just like the Pathe phonograph, this old portable gramophone shows what music lovers had to go through about a century ago. Be it a picnic or any similar outdoor occasion, they took their sandwiches, drinks, records and a gramophone. And off they went, on a carriage.

Estimated value: $ 1,000

Friday, January 9, 2009

Kutahya Inkwell

19c kutahya inkwells
Two cute little inkwells from nineteenth century. Kutahya, together with Afyon is the largest marble producing city in Turkey. For centuries it hosted artisans and artists of ceramics and related products.

Dimensions: 6.5x6.5 cm.
Estimated value: $ 1,000

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ottoman Tombac Zamzam Pitcher

19c ottoman tombac zamzam pitcher
A nineteenth century tombac piece used to carry specifically Zamzam (the holy water brought from Kaaba). I have especially liked its lid.

While passing by, doesn't how tombac is made ring any bells? Gold, sulphuric acid... No? One wonders, though, why such a dangerous technique was used. It cost many lives.

Height: 37.5 cm.
Estimated value: $ 65,000

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ottoman Polo Match

miniature of ottoman polo match

Human imagination can go to extremes. I was not aware that polo was popular in Ottoman Empire! According to the artist of this miniature, however, it was.

The page the miniature is drawn on is rather old, roughly 150 years and being unable to find out the name of the book, I really can not say if the artist ruined an artifact with her miniature (miniature is recent, hence the price tag). It is cute, nonetheless.

Dimensions: 14x20 cm.
Estimated value: $ 25

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Edirnekari Cabinet

ottoman edirnekari cabinet 18c, 19c

Edirne was (and still is) the cradle of decorators and designers of furniture in Ottoman Empire. That is why works done by artisans of Edirne are called Edirnekari. A really old and undamaged Edirnekari furniture can be worth in gold.

This late 18th early 19th century Edirnekari cabinet is a good example of the craftsmanship of the time. I deeply regret I was unable to find a close up photo to show you details.

Dimensions: 33x76x195 cm.

Estimated value: $ 15,000

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pathe Phonograph

pathe phonograph of 1890
It could be difficult to tell today's generation music was listened with instruments like this Pathe phonograph of 1890. You place the drum into its proper place, wind it a bit, and here it is: music from the past.

Estimated value: $ 700

Ottoman Pilot's Badge

pilot badge in ottoman empire
It is hard to say Ottoman Empire had an air force in the sense we know it nowadays. The fleet consisted of a handful of planes usually used in reconnaissence missions in the World War I. This Ottoman badge belonged to one of the few pilots of the time.

Estimated value: $ 750