Illustrations of Ottomans circa 1809 from
Stratford Canning's Pictures of Turkey
Janissaries with soup kettles and the regimental spoon



Physical description: Two soldiers carrying two soup kettles on a pole slung between them, a man in front carrying a giant spoon, and a Janissary officer behind them
Object: Watercolour
Place of origin: Istanbul, Turkey (Painted)
Date: about 1809 (Painted)
Artist/Maker: Anonymous Greek artist (Painter)
Marks and inscriptions: Numbered 95
Dimensions: Height: 20.2 cm, Width: 35.5 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum. Museum number: D.117-1895

Soup, the mainstay of the soldiers’ rations, had a great symbolic significance for the Janissaries. One legend claims that the order of Janissaries had been formed in the fourteenth century, with the blessing of the dervish Haci Bektas, and so the soup on which they dined together had an almost sacramental element. It was prepared in special copper cauldrons (kazan). If the worst happened, the soldiers would upturn their cauldrons and beat on them like drums as a signal of mutiny. The giant regimental spoon was equivalent to a standard in battle, and to lose it to the enemy was a sign of disgrace. Each Janissary had his personal spoon (kasik), which was carried in a special spoon container (kasiklik) on the front of his ceremonial headdress.



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