Name of Object:

Bejewelled ivory belts


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts


Hegira, first half of the 10th century / AD 16th century

Type of object:

Ivory, gold, emerald, ruby

Museum Inventory Number:

483, 482

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ivory, gold, mastic, turquoise, ruby, emerald, engraving.


Length 65.5 cm, width 4.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Two ivory belts, one comprising five large plaques with oval medallions, and the other four large plaques with round medallions, attached to each other with groups of small conjoined rectangular pieces. All are decorated in multiple layers. The surfaces are decorated with finely engraved spiralling tendrils and flower motifs, their lines filled with black mastic. The second layer of decoration includes gold flowers with rubies and turquoises at their centres, connected to tendrils with golden leaves. The background is concealed under the all-pervasive decoration, and the base materials are outshone by the ostentatiously encrusted stones. The deeply inlaid flowers in gilded settings, and the technique of decoration in multiple layers, reflect the courtly art of jewellery during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66).

The organisations of court artists and artisans (called the Ehl-i Hiref) were founded in the reign of Bayezid II (r. AH 886–918 / AD 1481–1512) and these organisations served as a school for all fields of Ottoman art. The number of artists at work in the palace can be followed from the books of salaries, which were kept regularly beginning in the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent.

A popular accessory for both men and women, belts were used to enrich and decorate a costume, secured around the waist. They bore a ritual meaning as well. Promotion to a certain rank was completed with the ceremony of girding on a belt. This custom, known from professional guilds was important for the sultans as well, and it was emphasised by placing a belt on the cenotaphs of deceased sultans and courtiers. In the Ottoman period, belts were produced from precious textiles and embroidered with silver and gold threads. Carved and ornamented belts made from metal plaques fitted side by side exhibit high standards of craftsmanship. While women's belts were elaborately decorated, those worn by men were fairly plain.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

Decorative motifs and stylistic features date the belts to the first half of the 10th / 16th century. The general character of this period is best reflected by works decorated with precious stones.

How Object was obtained:

The belts were transferred to the museum in 1914 from the tomb of Sultan Selim II (r. AH 974–82 / AD 1566–74) in Istanbul.

Selected bibliography:

ölçer, N., et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, p.261.

Roxburgh, D. J. (ed), Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600, London, 2005, p.453.

Citation of this web page:

Alev Özay "Bejewelled ivory belts" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;tr;Mus01;31;en&id=clothing_and_costume

Prepared by: Alev ÖzayAlev Özay

Alev Özay is an expert at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1942. She graduated from the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures of the Faculty of Letters, Istanbul University. She first worked at the museums of Tekirdağ and Kayseri. She attended Ottoman language courses in 1976–7 and restoration and conservation courses in 1982 organised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. She published an article on the “Turbe of Sultan Ahmet” in 1979 and in 1983 prepared the catalogue for the Exhibition on Islamic Arts in the 15th Century of the Hijra.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TR 58