Ottoman Rahle (“Quran Table”)
Once owned by the Turkish-born Princess Esra Birgen Jah, the former wife of the Nizam of Hyderabad Mukarram Jah, this splendid walnut Quran stand is decorated in the imperial Tarz-ı İstanbul (“İstanbul-style”). It has a striking central sunburst motif consisting of a 19-sided mother-of-pearl star enclosed by rows of diamonds and triangles inlaid with tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl. This sun-burst motif is repeated as half medallions on either side of the surface and separated by tulips and six-sided rosettes intertwined with scrolls, diamonds, triangles, and circles in mother-of-pearl. There is also a border of rosettes followed by an outer border of downward facing triangles in mother-of-pearl and upward facing tortoiseshell triangles to harmonise the tessellating scheme.
Similar to the surface decorations, the central sun-burst motif has been repeated on either side of the table and surmounted by rosettes with scrolls, diamonds and circles in mother-of-pearl; below this, the table legs are in the mihraplı (“mihrab”) style with a protruding three-sided floral-shaped medallion decorated with diamond motifs, of which the central motif is formed of a six-sided mother-of-pearl star within a tortoiseshell circle. The four legs are also decorated with the rosettes adjoined by scrolling vines and circles in mother-of-pearl followed by a border of triangles. Carved on the underside of the table is the year 1244 (1828 AD).
Under the table there is a shipping label which reads: “ADER PICARD TAJAN – PARIS – PRINCESS ESRA JAH LONDON”.
There is a similar Quran table containing this sun-burst motif in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in İstanbul (Accession Number: 108).1 The Haghia Sophia Library also has a folding Quran table with similar motifs.2
1 See, Cevdet Çulpan. 1968. Rahleler. İstanbul: Milli Eğitim Basımevi. p.32-33. & ill.29-30.