Ottoman Kütahya Incense Burner
This rare spheroid incense burner, comprising a lid and a stemmed cup placed on a saucer. A polychrome floral decoration is applied on a white background. The two halves are hinged together with two circular engraved metal mounts. They are attached with two metal chains attached to two bone beads on the left and right side, to keep them from falling apart when opened.
The lid has triangular panels with circular holes for the incense smoke to flow out. These panels are separated by elongated lozenges with floral patterns in blue, yellow, green, and orange. The lid is further mounted with a decorative trefoil metal finial. The pattern on the base has larger floral motifs which are separated by vertical floral patterns. The conical base and the saucer are decorated with floral motifs as well.
Kütahya is a town located 200 km south-east of Istanbul and is famous for its pottery production. Garo Kürkman states that blue and white pottery fragments had been found in excavations in Kütahya, which indicates that this was another centre for blue and white pottery production, apart from Iznik. Evidence of the early Armenian presence in Kütahya is confirmed by the colophon of a manuscript date 1391 stating that it was a gift to the church of that town (Crowe).
According to John Carswell, it is likely that the pottery from here was started by a group of displaced artisans who moved there from the east of the Ottoman empire in the 16th century. By the 18th century Kütahya was a well-established manufacturing centre for fine quality pottery. Patterns on multiple pieces show that the potters were clearly inspired by the Chinese floral designs on pottery that was available through trade. The pottery flourished in Kütahya through the patronage of the Armenians. Commissions from them included the pictorial tiles used in cathedrals in Jerusalem. Items such as incense-burners, ewers, bowls, dishes, and plates were often donated to churches there as well. It is possible this incense-burner was used similarly in a church context. In Ottoman sources, incense burners were called buhurdan and were used both in Muslim places of worship, mausolea, and residences. Yolande Crowe points out that apart from “catering for the Armenian community, the potters of Kütahya understood the requirements of a Mediterranean market,” particularly in terms of pattern and design.
According to Ergin, the incense that would have been used in these burners may have been small balls or small candle-like shapes of myrrh, frankincense, oud, musk, ambergris, hyacinth, or storax brought through trade with Arabia, South and Southeast Asia, which were either used on their own or mixed together, combined with items such as beeswax, resin, or wood.
Similarly formed incense burners made of gilt copper or tombak, featuring filigree work have been found from the 16th to 17th centuries. These either rest on a decorated flat plate or on an engraved flat plate raised on a tripod. Sometimes these tombak buhurdan have long stemmed legs or shorter S-shaped legs. Ergin highlights that certain paintings, such as Nakkas Osman, procession of the guild of buhurcus, from Surname-i Hümayun , ca. 1582. Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, H. 1344, fols. 112b- 13, show examples of these metal incense burners. However, a polychrome pottery incense burner with a finial, that too a metal finial, and an attached saucer, such as this is extremely rare. We believe there are currently only 11 known Kutahya pottery incense burners, of varying designs and shape, not including the present specimen.
Benaki Museum: Kürkman, Garo. Magic of Clay and Fire A History of Kütahya Pottery and Potters. Istanbul: Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Publication, 2006, pp. 160-161
Carswell, John, and C. J. F Dowsett. Kütahya Tiles and Pottery from the Armenian Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem. Vol. 2. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, p. 33.
Armenian Museum of America
Dallas Museum of Art K.1.2014.921
Sadberk Hanim Museum: SHM 4019-HK956
A kutahya pottery incense burner Ottoman Anatolia, early 18th century
An ottoman gilt copper (tombak) incense burner (buhurdan)
A rare and important Ottoman tombak incense burner (Buhurdan), Turkey, late 16th/17th Century
Carswell, John, and C. J. F Dowsett. Kütahya Tiles and Pottery from the Armenian Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem. Vol. 1 and 2. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.
Ergin, Nina. “The Fragrance of the Divine: Ottoman Incense Burners and Their Context.” The Art Bulletin 96, no. 1 (2014): 70–97. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43947707.
Kürkman, Garo. Magic of Clay and Fire A History of Kütahya Pottery and Potters. Istanbul: Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Publication, 2006.
Yolande Crowe http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/research-journal/issue-03/kutahya-ceramics-and-international-armenian-trade-networks/