A panel of tiles in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum were smuggled to France in the 1890s and replaced with imitations, according to museum director Hayrullah Cengiz.
“You can see the logo seal ‘made in France, Sevres’ behind the tiles,” Cengiz said, speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
One of the two panels on the sides of the entrance of the tomb of Sultan Selim II, the son of Süleyman the Magnificent, are an imitation of the original tiles, he said.
“These tiles were taken to France for restoration in the 1890s by the Frenchman Albert Dorigny, who came to the Ottoman Empire as a dentist. But they have not returned. Instead, imitation tiles had been made in France and had been mounted in place of the original. The original tiles are on the left side. You can see the difference between the two panels. These tiles are the most perfect example of 16th century tiles,” said Cengiz, regarding the 60 tiles on the right side of the tomb.
Cengiz said the Culture and Tourism Ministry had contacted the French Ministry of Culture for the tiles to be returned. “These tiles have been exhibited in the ‘Arts of Islam’ section of the Louvre Museum in France under inventory number of 3919/2-265. They have recently been removed most likely due to complaints,” he added.
Cengiz said the history on the smuggling of the tiles has been displayed in English, French and Turkish at the entrance of the tomb. “What was done was misconduct. This is why we want the world to know about the art theft with these information boards,” he added.