Research Article

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2022.18.999363   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2022.18.999363    Full Text (PDF)

Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection

Gülsen BaşAyşegül Bekmez

A metal candlestick registered with the inventory number 2/1963 in the Copenhagen David Collection attracts attention with its figurative decoration program. This candlestick, which has close similarities in medieval Islamic art and is referenced from time to time especially in foreign literature in terms of its decorations, has not been the subject of a detailed scientific study in terms of the details it offers regarding the period. All outer surfaces of the concave bronze candelabra, except the bottom, feature a visually rich decoration program with engraving and silver inlay technique. The aim of this study is to make some evaluations about the hunting culture and artistic reflections, which turned into a symbol of power in the political and social structure of the period, based on the depictions of hunting, which is thought to belong to the Seljuk era. In this study, it was revealed how the hunting culture was reflected in art around the Seljuk palace, especially the candlestick in the David Collection. In this respect, the research focused on hunting and its reflection in visual expression in the medieval Turkish-Islamic period.

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2022.18.999363   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2022.18.999363    Full Text (PDF)

Kopenhag David Koleksiyonu’ndan Bir Şamdanın Orta Çağ Av Kültürüne İlişkin Bezeme Programı Üzerine Düşünceler

Gülsen BaşAyşegül Bekmez

Kopenhag David Koleksiyonu’nda 2/1963 envanter numarası ile kayıtlı maden bir şamdan, figürlü bezeme programı ile dikkat çekmektedir. Orta Çağ Türk-İslam sanatında yakın benzerleri bulunan ve özellikle yabancı literatürde bezemeleri bakımından zaman zaman referans verilen bu şamdan, dönemin av kültürüne ilişkin sunduğu detaylar bakımından ayrıntılı olarak bilimsel bir çalışmaya konu edilmemiştir. Kesik konik gövdeli, tunç şamdanın dip haricindeki bütün dış yüzeylerinde kazıma ve gümüş kakma tekniğiyle görsel açıdan zengin bir bezeme programı yer almaktadır. Bu bezemeler av ve sonrasında tertip edilen eğlence törenlerini konu edinmektedir. Bu çalışmanın amacı, Selçuklu çağına ait olduğu düşünülen bu şamdanın avı konu alan tasvirlerinden hareketle, dönemin siyasi ve toplumsal yapısında iktidar ve güç sembolüne dönüşen av kültürü ve sanatsal yansımalarına dair bazı değerlendirmeler yapmaktır. Bu yönüyle araştırma, Orta Çağ Türk İslam döneminde av ve av törenlerinin görsel anlatımdaki yansımalarına yoğunlaşmaktadır. Böylece Selçuklu çağı saray çevresinde avın önemi ve bu durumun sanata nasıl yansıdığı Kopenhag David Koleksiyonu’ndaki şamdan özelinde ele alınarak değerlendirilmiştir.


The research focuses on hunting in Medieval Turkish-Islamic art and its visual reflections through a Seljuk candle holder in the David Collection. The Seljuk candle holder in the David Collection, which was examined for this purpose, draws attention with the hunting and entertainment scenes on it. The purpose of the candle holder and the figures on it are thought to be related to the hunting culture. It is assumed that the examples in which the hunting theme is the main element in the decoration were made to be used in the hunting lodge or in the feasts during the hunt. Emphasizing that the rulers are a good hunter also indicates that he is a good warrior. The hunter-hunting scenes, which are frequently featured on the castle gates, were a way of showing who had the power in the medieval world. Similarly, the power of the sultan is emphasized by including similar scenes on the daily use items made for a ruler. The David Collection candle holder is close to Anatolian examples in terms of the subjects covered.

For the medieval world, hunting and hunting rituals retained its importance as part of a deep-rooted tradition. Many rulers accepted ambassadors during hunting feasts and held meetings with statesmen. These ceremonies were an important stage for the ruler to show his power to his enemies and statesmen. While the sultan reveals his war skills during the hunt, he also reveals his magnificence with the feast given after the hunt. Many examples show the importance of hunting in the Seljuk world, as there were special divan memberships for hunting, and it was a privilege to raise dogs and birds of prey or the palace. In this case, it is quite predictable to make special items for hunting feasts. It can be assumed that items such as candle holders from the David Collection were also used in hunting activities. While the candle holder itself is used in these ceremonies, the decorations on it shed light on the Seljuk world and its thoughts on hunting.

The ornaments on the candle holder are evaluated in two separate categories as those related to hunting and those used as symbols of reign. Three scenes with a mounted hunter, two figures sitting cross-legged and toasting, two figures playing a musical instrument, a dancing figure, and possibly another figure holding a musical instrument, are found in scenes related to the hunt and the ceremony held afterwards. In the middle of the figures dancing, holding a glass and playing an instrument, there are three different sultanate emblems. The common feature of these emblems is that there is a wheel of fortune badge in the middle. It also contains interesting details about the Seljukian cultural world. With this study, it is aimed to reveal how the hunting culture experienced around the Seljuk palace is reflected in art, especially on the candle holder.

Artworks dealing with hunting and the items used during hunting constitute an important place in art history studies. The scenes on the David Collection completely depict a hunting feast. A hunt is gradually visualized in three scenes encased in a medallion on the body of the candle holder, while the feast after the hunt is depicted in other parts. It is understood that the hunting ceremonies mentioned between the lines in the sources of the period were reflected in handicrafts and architectural examples in a lively style. In addition to their standard functions, these works of art also serve for the purpose of symbolizing the sultanate and the power of the ruler. The fact that the ruler is a good hunter and can deal with animals that are difficult to control such as dragons and lions reveals his power. On the other hand, the sultan’s generosity is at the forefront in the entertainment after the hunt.

One of the reflections of hunting life in Turkish-Islamic arts is the figure of a mounted hunter. This figure is mostly depicted with a horse, hunting bird and hunting dog. The expectation of the ruler to be a good hunter is inevitable for the people and the palace environment, especially considering the legendary tales told. It is seen that this situation has turned into a concern of conveying a message by using it in art. Every ruler who comes to the throne organizes hunting feasts to prove himself in this field and exhibits his skills. The most obvious reflection of this situation is seen in the candle holders and so on. 

Dragon is a figure that has different meanings in different geographies of the medieval world and these meanings are intertwined from time to time. Dragon hunt became an important theme of the Anatolian visual language and was often used to symbolize the power of the sultan and the ruler. The scene on the David Collection is a typical reflection of one of the symbolic meanings attributed to the dragon in Anatolia.

The lion is a figure with different symbolic meanings, just like the dragon. The difference between the lion and the dragon is that it has become an important element of the hunt, especially in the Middle East geography. The lions caught in the wild became the most important of the hunts prepared for the sultan at the hunting feasts of the palace. In many eulogies written for the rulers in this period, how the sultan hunted lions is depicted and praised. The lion is not a mythical animal like the dragon, but a real prey, so it definitely takes its place next to the dragon in hunting scenes.

It is highly probable that the David Collection candle holder was produced in Anatolia in the 13th or 14th century, due to its stylistic similarity with examples of known history, although it is not certain. Considering the emblems on the candle holder, which are thought to symbolize the sultanate, it can be assumed that the work was produced in one of two periods, either Anatolian Seljuk or Artuqid. Wishing well for a sultan or statesman without mentioning his name in the inscriptions is a tradition frequently encountered in the art of metalworking. The fact that no names are mentioned on the candle holder indicates that these works were not made as a special order or gift and were produced for use in the hunting ceremonies of the sultans, contrary to the names mentioned. The emphasis in the inscriptions such as victory over the enemy, glory, well-being, and prosperity draws attention with their qualities that coincide with the scenes on the candle holder. 

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Baş, G., & Bekmez, A. (2022). Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection. Art-Sanat, 0(18), 59-86.


Baş G, Bekmez A. Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection. Art-Sanat. 2022;0(18):59-86.


Baş, G.; Bekmez, A. Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection. Art-Sanat, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 18, p. 59-86, 2022.

Chicago: Author-Date Style

Baş, Gülsen, and Ayşegül Bekmez. 2022. “Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection.” Art-Sanat 0, no. 18: 59-86.

Chicago: Humanities Style

Baş, Gülsen, and Ayşegül Bekmez. Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection.” Art-Sanat 0, no. 18 (Dec. 2023): 59-86.

Harvard: Australian Style

Baş, G & Bekmez, A 2022, 'Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection', Art-Sanat, vol. 0, no. 18, pp. 59-86, viewed 7 Dec. 2023,

Harvard: Author-Date Style

Baş, G. and Bekmez, A. (2022) ‘Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection’, Art-Sanat, 0(18), pp. 59-86. (7 Dec. 2023).


Baş, Gülsen, and Ayşegül Bekmez. Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection.” Art-Sanat, vol. 0, no. 18, 2022, pp. 59-86. [Database Container],


Baş G, Bekmez A. Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection. Art-Sanat [Internet]. 7 Dec. 2023 [cited 7 Dec. 2023];0(18):59-86. Available from: doi: 10.26650/artsanat.2022.18.999363


Baş, Gülsen - Bekmez, Ayşegül. Reflections on Medieval Hunting Ornamentation of a Candlestick from the Copenhagen David Collection”. Art-Sanat 0/18 (Dec. 2023): 59-86.


Published Online29.07.2022


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