Ottoman Turkish Art
The Ottoman empire, which lasted from 1299 until the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, ruled over a vast domain. At the peak of its expansion, the empire stretched from Western Asia and North Africa to the Balkan Peninsula and Hungary. Under imperial patronage, the finest craftsmen were brought to the court in Instanbul, where their skills and the varied traditions of their native lands converged in creation of Ottoman arts unmatched for their variety and opulence.
Just as the artistic traditions of many lands interacted and enriched one another, so the designs made by palace artisans passed back and forth from medium to medium -- from calligraphy and painting to textiles, ceramics, metalwork, bookbinding, and to the decoration of palaces, tombs, and shrines -- creating a glimpse of the breadth and richness of Ottoman Turkish arts. Many of them were produced during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520 - 1566) and the century that followed, which is considered to be the classical period of Ottoman art.
The art of the book is represented by miniature painting and calligraphy, as well as by a fine leather bookbinding and by the elegant tools of the calligrapher's trade -- a chased silver pen case and inkwell. Three fine miniatures, dating from the 16th century, present the martial and courtly sides of imperial Ottoman life. They depict Suleyman and his entourage on the march, the Sultan at the palace school, and a sumptuously illustrated episode from The Life of the Prophet.
Calligraphy -- the art of writing -- was considered to be the highest form of visual art in the Islamic world, as it was in China and Japan. Four decoupage calligraphies display both the refined style of the writer and the technical virtuosity of the artist who cut these delicate forms out of paper and pasted them on a colored background, or, in one case (17.489), cut through the paper so that the writing appears as the contrasting colored paper underneath. The rhythmic, curved strokes of the Islamic calligrapher -- from which we get the word arabesque -- also appear on a woven silk tomb cover that proclaims statements of faith such as "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Prophet of God."
Rich and colorful textiles were among the glories of Ottoman art. The examples here represent several combinations of fibers, weaves, and kinds of decoration, ranging from the bold colors and large-scale pattern of an embroidered linen curtain, to the rich hues and luxurious texture of a velvet cushion cover, and the shimmering silver and gold threads of silk brocade.
A group of wall-tiles and an outstanding dish, meanwhile, display the brilliant colors of botanical patterns that characterize Turkish ceramics. Together with the other objects in this gallery they represent the elegance, vitality, and sensuality of Ottoman Turkish Art.