Zinc was prized through the Islamic world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The small group of vessels made of cast zinc in the Topkapi Palace dating from the sixteenth or early seventeenth century are widely puiblished. The way they are decorated with gold scrolling designs and inset gemstones attests to their value at the time. By the second half of the seventeenth century metalworkers had discovered that, while brittle at room temperature, the metal is malleable at only just above boiling point of water, so making vessels out of sheet became more practiced. Both in the Ottoman world, and in India, examples are found with the bodies made of undecorated sheet zinc (Mughal Silver Magnificence, exhibition catalogue, Brussels, 1987, no.154, p.114).
The form here is one that appears unparalleled in surviving metalwork, but is well known in Iznik pottery of the sixteenth century. During the sixteenth century there was a gradual attenuation of the form, which started off with the very bulbous body and tubular neck. All complete examples have the rounded boss also found on the present bottle. The development is clearly shown in a series of line drawings (N. Atasoy and J. Raby: Iznik, the Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, London, 1989, fig.33, p.39). The present bottle, with its continuous slop demonstrates the next development of the form, encouraged certainly in this case by the restrictions imposed by the material.
The decoration appears to be unique. A clock dating from the mid-seventeenth century in the Topkapi Palace has very similar scolling engraved silver floral designs. covering the face (The Anatolian Civilisations, exhibition catalogue, Istanbul, 1983, no.E.270, p.265). The cover of a Ming porcelain bowl is worked in very similar fashion (R. Krahl and J. Ayers: Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, London, 1986, vol.II, p.715, no.1245 and col.pl.p.462. While the floral forms are very similar indeed, both the other examples are pierced rather than being set against a black composition ground.
The other thing that makes this bottle remarkable is the turquoise inset panels. This is a technique that seems to have been introduced to Turkey from Iran at the beginning of the previous century. The maker of this bottle would have known an inkwell and pencase in the Topkapi which sets turquoise inset medallions which are filled with arabesques against a different ground. (Hunt for Paradise, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 2003, no.8.4, pp.206-7). It seems probable that this object or another like it served as the inspiration for this element of the design.