Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has requested that France return china tiles stolen from Caliph Selim II’s tomb at the Hagia Sophia during a so-called “restoration” in the 1890s.
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.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Mr Cengiz said: “You can see the logo seal ‘made in France, Sevres’ behind the tiles.
“These china tiles were being exhibited in the Islamic Works section of the Louvre Museum, France’s most famous museum. But now they have been removed.”
Some 60 Iznik tiles were stolen by Albert Dorigny of France in 1895 and replaced with imitation tiles under the pretext of restoration of the sultan’s tomb in the Hagia Sophia complex.
The stolen tiles were later displayed in Paris’ Louvre.
Dorigny, who was Caliph Abdulhamid II’s dentist, brought the tiles to France on the pretext of cleaning, but the tiles that returned were fakes.
The fake tiles, which were added to the left side of the entrance door, can be easily identified by a stamp indicating they were made in Sevres, France, Hagia Sophia Museum Director told Anadolu Agency.
Turkish officials have met with the French Ministry of Culture and Tourism to request the return of the tiles, but have not yet received a positive response.
Turkey has criticized the Louvre for displaying the tiles as an act of “art theft.”