Marbling (in Turkish, ebru) is one of Turkey’s oldest artistic methods of paper decoration, with a history that stretches back hundreds of years. This art is known in Western countries as “Turkish paper”.
The art of marbling is one of Turkey’s oldest decorative arts. The art first arrived in Iran by way of the Silk Road, and was later brought to Anatolia by the Turks. Common descriptions of marbling include such phrases as “streaky, like a water stain”, “the visage of water” and “like a cloud”.
The oldest example of marbling on display in Topkapı Palace dates from the year 1447. According to the sources, marbled paper from this early era was typically used as the background for governmental documents and official transcripts. A few examples of modern marbling—which was first introduced in the city of Samarkand, in Turkestan, during the Thirteenth Century, and in the city of Herat, in eastern Iran, in the Fourteenth Century—are also on display in the palace.
Artists who specialize in marbling are known as marblers (in Turkish, ebruzen). The first important marbler in the history of Turkish marbling was Mehmed Efendi. Necmeddin Okyay, (1883–1976) one of the most important master marblers during the late Ottoman Empire, was the first person to develop in “flower marbling”. Among the masters who carry on the tradition of marbling today are Niyazi Sayın, Fuad Başar, Alparslan Babaoğlu, Timuçin Tanaslan, Hikmet Barutçugil, and Feridun Özgören.
Together with leather-working, marbling forms an important method of creating backgrounds for calligraphic art. In addition to the marbling’s elegant visible qualities, it also contains thousands of amazing characteristics that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Furthermore, everyone who has the opportunity to engaging in marbling personally agrees that the art has psychologically therapeutic qualities. Traditional types of marbling include embroidered marbling, ebb and flow, wrapped marbling and nightingale egg marbling. Flower marbling, with such genres as tulip, rose, carnation, hyacinth and daisy, is also quite popular.
How is marbling done?
When making marbled artwork, one must first increase the density and consistency of the water by adding a coagulant, such as “tragacanth” to it. The clay paint is prepared by crushing it together with “ox bile”. The paint is then mixed together with water using brushes made from rose branches and mares’ tails. The drops of paint spread uncontrollably over the water, and create an infinite array of colourful patterns.
An education in marbling
The number of institutions offering instruction in marbling has increased recently, in response to the rising interest in the art form. One can pursue an academic degree in marbling at Mimar Sinan University and Traditional Arts Department of Marmara University. Moreover, private classes in marbling are offered at a variety of locations, including the Istanbul Marbling House (Ebristan), the Caferağa Medrese, Küçükayasofya Medrese. One can also pursue marbling lessons at any number of private workshops.
One can purchase the clay paints necessary in marbling at the Thursday Market in Karaköy, while all of the other necessary materials are available for purchase at a number of locations in Sultanahmet. After an initial investment of approximately 150 YTL for materials, your education in marbling can begin.
Istanbul Marbling House (Ebristan): +90 216 334 59 34
Caferağa Medrese: +90 212 513 36 01
Küçükayasofya Medrese: +90 212 638 50 12
Marbling, which can be applied to ceramic, glass, metal, and wooden surfaces, is used as a painting and design technique in a wide variety of common items from daily life.