You may already own a piece of Turkish art, assuming that the carpet you haggled over in the Istanbul bazaar was really hand-made, composed of natural fibers, knotted or woven, dyed and designed properly.
Don’t bother to call an appraiser; there’s virtually no chance your carpet dates to the Ottoman period, from 1299 to 1922.
If you want an Oushak (also known as Usak or Ushak), be prepared to spend at least $15,000 “for something really quite nice, half that for something decent,” says William Robinson, a Christie’s senior director who heads the auction house’s international Islamic art and carpets department.
Because of Turkey’s location, history, and culture, its fine art — ceramics, carpets, metal work — is not so much Turkish as it is Islamic, Ottoman or Anatolian, a geographic and historical term for the western-most protrusion of Asia.
Given that complexity, Robinson has some advice for would-be investors. “You need to speak to the people who know — dealers, auction houses. They are very happy to talk you through the options,” he says. “It’s much better to learn hands-on than to study it in books.”
The main areas are calligraphy, carpets, ceramics and metals.
In ceramics (tiles, plates, bowls, vessels), Iznik has no peers. But among carpets, Oushak is one of many categories — Seljuk, Hereke, Ta?p?nar and Izmir — spanning the sprawling Ottoman Empire. The Iznik and Oushak styles, like many others, derive from the respective towns where they were made, fostering industries that produced these items for decades.
Iznik, however, was the ceramic manufacturing center of the empire, which may explain why one can find “decent " 17th-century pieces for about $2,400, says Sara Plumbly, who heads sales for Christie’s Islamic art department.
London dealer Simon M. W. Ray of Simon Ray Limited, who focuses mainly on 16th- and 17th-century works, describes Turkey as a “strong market.”
“It is attractive art, keeps its price and there’s a good group of collectors,” he says.
Take a look at 10 classic pieces along with analyses from market experts. (Official prices are in British pounds, and converted to U.S. dollars, based on current exchange rates .)
22 August 2012
Date: circa 1575
Size: 3.9 by 8.9 inches
List price: £14,000 ($21,979)
Like dishes and bowls, Iznik tiles are extremely decorative and detailed, often using the colors cobalt blue and emerald green set on a white background.
Tiles were often commissioned by sultans for the walls of important buildings, as many a visitor to Istanbul knows.
“This border tile contains part of a stylized meandering floral design, and along with similar tiles would have framed a large central pattern on the wall of a mosque, palace or other important building,” London dealer Simon M. W. Ray writes in his notes.
Date: circa 1590
Size: 12-inch diameter
Sale price: £32,450 ($50,923)
This classic dish of the early Iznik school is from the Ottoman Empire and features common colors (blue, green and red) and design elements (flowers, vines).
In the center of the dish is a ewer — a vase-shaped pitcher, often with a flaring spout.
Size: folio —15 1/8 by 10 1/8 inches
Sale price: £49,250 British pounds ($77,713)
Calligraphy had a prestigious status in Ottoman culture, having been closely associated with the sultans and the Holy Koran.
Artists of the 16th and 17th centuries were highly influenced by Arab masters of the past.
Date: Late 15th or early 16th century
Size: 19 feet 2 inches by 7 feet 9 inches
Sale price: £265,250 ($416,436)
A carpet category, or style, can span a century or more, and/or sometimes be tied to a ruling family or dynasty. This carpet is from either the last quarter of the 15th century or the first quarter of the 16th century. (The star in its title refers to the celestial object.)
Ushak carpets were first seen in Anatolia but are also identified with the Ottoman period. They were used to decorate walls as much as floors and were used as room dividers.
Christie’s notes there are “areas of slight wear, one end re-woven, small, scattered other repairs.” If the color is faded or weak, it likely means the carpet was restored in some way, " says Christie’s senior director William Robinson.
Date: circa 1590
Size: 6 1/2 inches high, 5.6-inch diameter
List price: £65,000 ($102,048)
This small vase essentially uses the same combination of colors intrinsic to Iznik style and has a floral design.
“The shape of this rare, and and unusual vase could well have been inspired by Islamic metalwork vessels,” says Ray.
Date: circa late 17th to early 18th century
Size: 8 1/8 inches high
Sale price: £91,250 ($143,260)
This Ottoman item — made of gilt copper, which looks more like gold — is either from the late 17th century or early 18th century. The style and amount of detail with burners varies widely based on origin.
Incense burners were also made of silver and brass, but silver was rarely used in any metal object, according to Christie's.
Date: circa 1570
Size: 8 1/2 inches high
Sale price: £157,250 British pounds ($246,771)
This ceramic drinking cup is from Ottoman Turkey, and incorporates many of the decorative aspects of the Iznik School.
Galloping animals are common touches. Meanwhile, blue is a prominent color, as is aquamarine. The color scheme, however, is known to vary from period to period.
Notes Christie's: “The piece has a restored handle and minor chips to the rim and foot.”
Date: circa 1585-1590
Size: 14 1/4-inch diameter
Sale price: £169,250 ($265,718)
This Ottoman dish, “large and impressive, " according to Christie's, mixes red, blue and green, and features flowers and leaves.
“It’s what comes to mind when you think of Islamic ceramics, " says Sara Plumbly, who heads Christie's Islamic art department sales. She adds that the style's Asian roots are evident.
Date: 1574-1595 or 1623-1640
Size: 6 inches high
Sale price: £211,250 ($333,522)
The exact age of this piece is unclear, according to Christie's. If 16th century, then it is Ottoman; if 17th century then it is Macedonian.
The detail of decoration is amazing given the size and design. It has silver gilt, an ornamental coating of silver, silver leaf, or a silver-colored substance.
The tankard (a large drinking cup with single handle) was the standard drinking vessel in Ottoman culture. Though there was a variety of sizes, this version is one of the more common sizes.
Date: circa 1920
Size: 6 feet 4 inches by 4 feet 5 inches
Sale Price: £73,250 ($115,000)
This rug, or carpet, dates to just before the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923.
The rug has metal and silk threads, and was signed by its creator, Zareh Penyamin. He was a master weaver and designer of the period, whose work is in major museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Christie’s notes the rug is in “overall excellent condition.”