400-year-old lost decoration art unearthed in Ottoman palace
An example of classical period decoration called “saz-style” has been found on the vaulted ceiling in the fourth courtyard of Istanbul’s iconic Topkapı Palace, the former seat of the Ottoman sultans and their retinues, during a restoration work that has been ongoing for five months.
The decoration of the 16th century attracts attention with its simurgh, dragon, cloud and floral motif details and gold leaf embroidery.
The artwork made under black plaster is believed to belong to Şah Kulu, who was the chief decorator of the palace and the first representative of the style and the masters he trained during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The “saz-style” technique was inspired by the patterns of a kaftan cloth that Suleiman the Magnificent had the palace tailors stitch for his two sons.
It is assumed that the decoration emerging under black plaster is the most significant example of the technique in terms of style, size and color varieties on the vaulted ceiling covering the courtyard between Hırka-i Saadet and Revan mansions in the palace.
The National Palaces Administration Scientific Committee has prepared an intervention plan for the 500-year-old “thatch road” decoration.
The figure made on Horasan plaster will be preserved in its original form within the scope of a project.
“While some field works were carried out on the 19th-century decorations in the building, some colorful decorations were found under the plaster on the stone surfaces between the arches of the Hırka-i Saadet Mansion,” said Cem Eriş, an official from the National Palaces authority.
“We discovered a very different hand-drawn decoration at the bottom as a result of the rasps made. These are stucco works that we cannot see in this detail and this quality elsewhere in Topkapı Palace,” he noted.
It is believed that the very precious decoration was forgotten when the Revan Mansion, which is located in the palace, was covered with a vault when it was built in 1635 and was unearthed again after the careful work of scientists.
Eriş said they guessed that the decoration had not been seen by anyone for several centuries, noting that the finding was very exciting.
The decoration is planned to be exhibited in a way that is visible to the visitors when the works are finished, and the construction piers are removed.
“We will show it by putting a breathable protective transparent cover,” Eriş said.
Kulu, who was the chief muralist of Nakkaşhâne, the Ottoman palace’s design-house, is the first representative of saz-style decoration technique.
Sharp-pointed and curved dagger-shaped leaves, hatâyî style flowers, mythical forest animals and fairies can be seen in the paintings made by him.