The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Seljuk metalwork

Back to arts page


One of the most outstanding artistic accomplishments of the Great Seljuks were their metalwork arts. This tradition continued during the Anatolian Seljuk period, albeit on a lesser scale. The objects were of high quality workmanship and a variety of types, forms, decorative techniques and designs can be seen on them. Important centers of production were Siirt and Diyarbakir in southeastern Anatolia and Konya.


Most metal objects of the Seljuk period were made of copper, bronze, iron, steel and brass. The precious metals of silver and gold were generally not used.


Objects were generally made by casting and forging. They were often decorated with pierced, engraved, repoussé (relief), inlaying and enameling techniques, often combined in a single piece. In rare cases gold inlay can be seen. The Great Seljuk Persian forms of the spouted vessel, mortar and candlestick continued to be popular in Anatolia, along with censers, mirrors,  and kitchen utensils. Objects specific to the the production of the Seljuks of Rum include circular dirham weights, jewelry, garment plaques, door knockers, and belt buckles. The Seljuks used a repertory of design elements similar to those used in the textile and ceramic arts: figures, animals, both real and fantastic, double-headed eagles and birds. Court and hunting scenes are frequent, with infill of small-scale naturalistic scrolls of vegetal (palmettes and rumis) and geometric bands. Many objects contain calligraphic good wishes as is seen on ceramic wares, often with the letters terminating in human or animal heads. Only 3 known objects are bear dated inscriptions.

The minting of dated coins was another important metalwork activity under the Anatolian Seljuks, and began in the early 13th c. Coins were minted in silver and copper, and, in rare cases, in gold. These coins are decorated with elements such as kufic calligraphy, astronomical symbols of the Sultan, and lions, symbol of the Sultanate.






Istanbul Topkapi Palace Museum, inv. 1792

1st half 13th c.

Steel with inlaid gold


A masterpiece of detail, the reverse of this mirror depicts a hunter on horseback, holding his falcon in his left hand. The saddle of the horse has an inscription along its edge. A hound, a dragon under the hooves of the horse, a fleeing fox and a flying duck complete the elaborate scene The band encircling the mirror includes a series of animals, real and fantastic, chasing after each other, and include a dragon, a deer, a bear, and a sphinx.

Bronze Mirror


Amasya Museum, inv. 75-14-11

13th c.


Cast bronze with a pattern reading “Ali”



Bronze Candlestick


Ankara, Ethnography Museum, inv. 5538

end 13th c.

From the Mevlevi Lodge of Afyon


This outstanding example from one of the most important Mevlevi Dervish lodges in Anatolia, is cast and engraved with mounted cavaliers in a field of foliage patterns


Brass Fountain Spout

Yozgat Museum, Inv. 335; 1st half 13th c.


Originally from the Mahperi Hatun Caravansaray, Pazar/Tokat. This cast and engraved faucet was one of the two original spouts on the exterior fountain of the han; the other one was stolen.


Brass Lamp


Ankara Museum of Ethnography, inv. 7591

From the Eşrefoğlu Mosque in Beyşehir


Forged, embossed, champlevé and engraved


This lamp contains a nakshi inscription including the name of the artist (Mehmed, son of Ali of Nusaybin) and the place of manufacture (Konya) and date (1280/81). The openwork body is composed of a pattern of vegetal motifs. It includes 3 bull heads in relief with rings which served as the hooks to suspend the lamp by a chain. An inscription around the next contains an excerpt of Sura 35 of the Quran (al-Nur, XXXIV)

Bronze Mortar and Pestle


Ankara, Ethnography Museum, inv. 15167

11-13th c.


Relief-cast with a series of 4 rings and decorated sides. Metalwork was one of the most accomplished arts of the Great Seljuks, and this mortar is testament to the continuation of the craft.


Door with bronze knockers


Great Mosque of Cizre; Beg. 13th c.


The icon of the TIEM museum in Istanbul, these doors and their knockers constitute an extraordinary piece of workmanship. The inscription includes the name of Abu’l Qasim Sanjar Shah, the atabeg of Cizre. 12-pointed stars and rumi designs are carved into the panels which were fitted onto wooden frames and hammered in place with nails with rounded heads. The bronze knockers comprise a dragon and lion head. One is intact and the other was stolen and is now in the David Collection in Copenhagen.


Detail of the one remaining intact door knocker of the doors of the Ulu Cami in Cizre (Istanbul Museum of Islamic Art). Cast and engraved





©2001-2020, Katharine Branning; All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.