Çintamani is an Ottoman decorative motif that appears in textiles and tiles. It can be composed of a group of three circles arranged in a triangle. Or it can be a pair of wavy lines. Further, the circle, which often contains a dot, can transition into what appears to be a crescent with the tips of the horns touching, or nearly so. In Ottoman art, and especially in textiles, the spots and stripes are decorative patterns which can be used individually, in combination, or mixed with other designs. The garments surviving with these patterns are those of Sultans, and the pattern may carry additional special meaning because of this.
What are çintamani, anyway? Scholars debate the source and meaning of the pattern. Some point to Central Asian Buddhism, since, in Tibetan Buddhism, cintamani (a Sanskrit word) is the wish-fulfilling jewel, held by Avalokiteshvara, a Bodhisattva or representations of Buddha, and the circular motif could be that glowing pearl. The wavy lines that can be cloulds or waves borrowed from Chinese and Tibetan art. Others think that these patterns were originally used in Central and Eastern Asia as animal patterns, wavy tiger stripes and circular leopard spots.
[Note: all garments in collection of Topkapi Serai Museum, Istanbul, Turkey. Tiles and textile fragments in various museum collections.]
Three Circles Alone
An adult man's quilted kaftan of red silk with a woven pattern of three yellow çintamani circles, each surrounded by a thin line of light blue.
|A youth's kaftan with the same pattern|
(clearly the original wearer was larger than the display dummy)
|Front||Back||(photo by Dick Osseman)|
An entari of blue silk with silver leaf çintamani circles applied to the fabric
|Fragment of red velvet with pattern of yellow çintamani circles of three different sizes arranged in triangles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)|
The Circle as Crescent
Kaftan of red silk with appliqued large scale çintamani crescent and tulips of metallic gold fabric
|Kaftan of white silk with appliqued huge scale pattern of three çintamani crescents in triangle, separated vertically by a single wavy line|
(Photo Dick Osseman)
|In this painting from the Codex Vindobonensis 8626 (circa 1590), showing five women, the one on far left wears a garment with large crescent çintamani and the one on the far right wears a garment with a pattern of ogees, the large ones filled with four çintamani crescents arranged in a diamond. As this is a painting, i cannot guarantee this textile pattern is genuine. Other patterns shown on garments in this book are accurate, however, so this may be as well.|
I have not been able to find extant items with patterns consisting solely or primarily of wavy lines. If you know of one, i'd love to be able to add it.
Circles Plus Lines
Three fragments of identical red silk velvet with rows of yellow triangle made of three large çintamani circles and of three small çintamani circles arranged in triangles alternating with rows of two yellow wavy lines, of yellow silk warpped with gilt silver foil. Made in the city of Bursa.
|Left: identified as being 15th C.|
(Cleveland Museum of Art 1943.313)
|Center: identified as dating to 1550-1600|
(Victoria & Albert Museum 356-1897)
|Right: identified as dating circa 1475
(Harvard Art Museum, 1924.12)
|Red silk kaftan with metallic gold and silver çintamani pattern|
(photo Dick Osseman)
|Fragment of red velvet with offset rows of three white çintamani circles alternating with two yellow wavy lines, late 15th-early 16th c..|
|Painting from the Codex Vindobonensis 8626 (ca. 1590), showing three women in a harem accompanied by two serving women. Note the pattern on the blue entari on the woman on the far left, on both curtains, and on the cushions with red background and with white background. Even if this is from the artist's imagination, clearly the çintamani pattern impressed him.|
Çintamani With Other Patterns
The çintamani pattern is often a component of a more complex pattern, and may be hard to notice at first glance.
The garments and textiles presented here are in chronological order, from left to right.
|Kaftan of Sultan Selim I (r. 1515-1520), ca.1515|
Black kemkha - silk brocade; lined in red silk
|Red silk brocaded with metal thread, Bursa, late 16th C. (Cleveland Museum of Art 1918.207)|
|Kaftan, red silk brocaded with metal threads of gold and silver||Kaftan of green and white silk (not brocade), 17th C.|
(Photo Dick Osseman)
Where's the çintamani? Look at the biggest circle - it's like the almost crescent - and it contains a smaller off-center dark circle, just like many çintamani patterns.
Çintamani in Other Materials
Çintamani is not limited to garment fabrics. It occurs as a decorative motif on other items, too, including carpets, woodwork. tiles, and other ceramics.
||Çintamani with green Chinese ribbons|
||Istanbul, 1570-1597 (V&A Museum)|
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