This Turkish calligrapher’s box from the 1700s contains the hallmarks of Ottoman design. The large box includes a number of removable, self-contained compartments with distinct functions and decorative styles. The design is an intricate inlay of ivory, brass, bone, mother of pearl and tortoiseshell and gold touches over wood. A removable lid slides smoothly into a slot and is secured with a lock and key. A small-lidded compartment is designed to store ink. The lid is beautifully decorated with a central medallion appears a date and an Arabic inscription inlaid with mother of pearl. The writing has a missing vowel that sounds as (A) in the English language, characteristic of Turkish style, and the quote reads:
“Mashallah” (“Mashallah” or “Mash’Allah” is an Arabic phrase used to show appreciation for a person or happening.
It shows respect, and also reminds that everything is achieved by the will of God. The closest English translation is “God willed it.” It is used to show joy and praise, and is evoked upon hearing good news.
The phrase has found its way into the language of non-Arabs, including Turks Persians and other Muslim countries).
The lid is also bears a date 1171 AH-1757AD.
Pen and brushes are stored in a removable rectangular compartment. The main part of the box forms a deep base for storing papers. The golden floral and leaf designs create a visual theme by coating the backside with gold leaves of the transparent tortoise shell inlay.
The four corner pieces of the box form split palmettes decorations.
The mother of pearl and tortoiseshell inlay shows a geometric pattern of rectangles with a decorative border.
The classical Ottoman inlay pattern is found frequently in Qur’an stands, furniture and decorative items. The combination of wood with the contrast of ivory and bone was common, although mother of pearl and tortoiseshell inlays are considered more visually dramatic and valuable.
Calligraphy was a highly regarded in the Ottoman period. Writing supplies, such as calligraphers’ boxes and penholders were status symbols and indicated a high level of learning. The importance placed on writing the Quran made calligraphy a sacred task as well as a powerful art form.
This item was sold before the Ivory ban became force in the UK, on the 6th. of June, 2022.