The Day a Plate Sold for £5.4 ($6.9) Million

An Exceptionally Rare Ottoman Dish - 15th Century Iznik Charger

“Opportunities to acquire great works of Iznik pottery from the 15th century are indescribably rare…”*

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* The ‘Debbane Charger’, Iznik pottery, was created in the earliest group of Iznik ceramics during the 15th-century reign of Mehmet II, ‘the Conqueror’. Belonging to a small and exceptionally rare group of Iznik pottery, it is characterised by an intense, inky, blue-black colouring, distinctive of the embryonic state of firing control at this time, around two decades before a brighter cobalt blue could be accomplished. This special piece encapsulates a confluence of influences, both local and foreign, as well as a flair for invention.

Mehmet II was renowned for his patronage of the arts and is celebrated for inviting foreign artists to his royal court. Exquisite Iznik pieces such as the ‘Debbane Charger’ could only have been created in response to demand from the court itself since only royalty could finance such an industry. Aside from the Islamic arts of illumination and calligraphy, the decoration of this piece owes a debt to two other distinct influences – Chinese porcelain and Islamic metalwork. It is similar in size to 14th century Yuan porcelain dishes, which were among the popular blue and white wares imported into the Ottoman Empire. The influence of Balkan silver bowls is also evident, as the decoration attempts to create the impression of relief metalwork.

The ‘Debbane Charger’ is related to four other large dishes, all of which are held in museum collections – including Paris’ Musée du Louvre. In their landmark book: Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby suggested that the dishes were used in court banquets.

The charger was formerly in the collection of a prolific bibliophile and businessman Max Debbane (1893-1965), who patronised many leading cultural institutions in the town of his birth, Alexandria, as well as serving as President of the Archaeological Society…

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