TYPE: Artifact
DIMENSIONS: Length is 33.5 cm.
WEIGHT: Silver 110g
NOTES: It was once in the Kelekian collection and was auctioned on June 18th, 2001 in Paris.

Dikran Garabed Kelekian (also known as Dikran Khan Kélékian) was a collector and dealer of ancient, medieval, and Islamic art. Of Armenian heritage, he was born in Turkey, and with his brother Kevork, he established an antiquities business in Istanbul circa 1892. In the following year, he came to the United States as a commissioner for the Persian pavilion at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. With his brother, he established shops in New York at 709 Fifth Avenue, later at 598 Madison Avenue, and later still at 20 East 57th Street; in Paris at 10, rue Rossini, and later, at 2, Place Vendôme; in London; and in Cairo. He played a substantial role in the formation of the Coptic, Early Christian, and Classical collections of Henry Walters (later founder of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore) and the Gothic collection of George Blumenthal, a financier and the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He was also well known as an early champion of modern French painters. Kelekian died in January 1951, when he fell from the twenty-first floor of the Hotel St. Moritz in New York.
Inscription Translation: From Akht'amar in memory of Ohannes Handchian 1805
ITEM ID: 3506
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Georgian-Style Silver Wine Spoon

Year: 1805
Decade: 1800s
Century: 18th (1701-1800)

This Georgan silver spoon was made in the Caucasus region. It’s style is niello decoration comprising fleurons. The long handle holds the cup in a scroll design connection, on which is engraved an Armenian inscription on the above and lower sides of the handle in bold capitals.

The bottom of the spoon has three identical silver or maker’s hallmarks. The origin of the spoon depends on the reading of the hallmarks. The inscription reads, “From Akht’amar in memory of Ohannes Handchian 1805.” It is quite conceivable that this is not a wine spoon but a baptismal ladle, which a godfather has presented to his godchild.

Scholar Juan de Lara commented that,
“That is a Georgian wine ladle for tamada, called Azarpesh.”

Akdamar Island is the second largest of the four islands in Lake Van, in eastern Turkey. About 0.7 km² in size, it is situated approximately 3 km from the shoreline. At the western end of the island, a hard, grey, limestone cliff rises 80 m above the lake’s level (1,912 m above sea level). The island declines to the east to a level site where a spring provides ample water.

It is home to the 10th century Armenian Holy Cross Cathedral. Between 1116 and 1895 the island was the location of the Catholicosate of Aghtamar of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Khachatur III, who died in 1895, was the last Catholicos of Aght’amar. In April 1915, during the Armenian genocide, the monks on Aght’amar were massacred, the cathedral looted, and the monastic buildings destroyed.
Between May 2005 and October 2006, the church underwent a controversial restoration program. The restoration had a stated budget of 2 million Turkish Lira (approximately 1.4 million USD) and was financed by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. It officially re-opened as a museum on 29 March 2007 in a ceremony attended by the Turkish Minister of Culture, government officials, ambassadors of several countries, Patriarch Mesrob II (spiritual leader of the Armenian Orthodox community of Turkey), a delegation from Armenia headed by the Deputy to the Armenian Minister of Culture, and a large group of invited journalists from many news organizations around the world.

Armenian religious leaders invited to attend the opening ceremony opted to boycott the event, because the church was being reopened as a secular museum. Controversy surrounded the issue of whether the cross atop the dome until 1915 should be replaced. Some Armenians said that the renovation was unfinished until the cross was replaced, and that prayer should be allowed inside at least once a year. A cross had been prepared nearly a year before the opening, and Mesrob II petitioned the Prime Minister and Minister of Culture to place the cross on the dome of the cathedral. Turkish officials cited technical difficulties related to the structure of the restored building which may not be able to safely hold a heavy cross on top without further reinforcement.

The controversial cross was erected on the top of the church on October 2, 2010. The cross was sent by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul to Van by plane. It is 2 meters high and weigh 110 kilograms. It was put on top of the church after being sanctified by Armenian clergymen. Since 2010, every year a mass is held in the church too.

The opening was controversial among some Turkish nationalist groups, who protested at the island and in a separate demonstration in Ankara. Police detained five Turkish nationals who carried a banner declaring “The Turkish people are noble. They would never commit genocide.” Demonstrators outside the Ministry of the Interior in Ankara chanted slogans against the possibility of a cross being erected atop the church, declaring “You are all Armenians, we are all Turks and Muslims.”