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This large silver bowl has been made for use by a wealthy bather in a hammam or a traditional Ottoman bathhouse. It was used to ladle water over the bather, and then could be turned upside and used as a pillow to cradle the head; the central indentation (or dome when viewed from the inside) providing a place for the head to rest.
It is of thin, hammered silver that has been chased and repoussed with a central image of a paddle steamer, around which a floral design radiates with cartouches alternatively decorated with a sailing ship and left plain. Twelve staling ships are depicted in total.
Paddle steamers such as the example depicted were in use on the Bosphorus in Istanbul by the mid-19th century. In 1851, the Istanbul Maritime Company was established and within two years was operating six paddle steamers as a ferry service across the Boshphorus.
There are no assay or tughra marks.
A very similar example (also without assay or tughra marks) was offered as lot 313 by Sotheby’s London at their ‘An eye for Opulence – Art of the Ottoman Empire’, April 24, 2012.
The bowl here is in fine condition. Minor holes can be seen in the design when the bowl is held up to the light. There are no dents or repairs.
Koc, A., et al, Istanbul: The City and the Sultan, Nieuwe Kerk, 2007.