Ottoman empire

Ottoman Empire created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia (Asia Minor) that grew to be one of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Ottoman period spanned more than 600 years and came to an end only in 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in south-eastern Europe and the Middle East.

At its height the empire encompassed most of south-eastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including present-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, and parts of Ukraine; portions of the Middle East now occupied by IraqSyriaIsrael, and EgyptNorth Africa as far west as Algeria; and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The term Ottoman is a dynastic appellation derived from Osman I (Arabic: ʿUthmān), the nomadic Turkmen chief who founded both the dynasty and the empire about 1300.

ottoman empire art history

At the time of its foundation in the early fourteenth century, the Osmanli or Ottoman state was one among many small principalities that emerged as a result of the disintegration of the Seljuq sultanate in Anatolia and subsequent instability caused by Mongol rule. This embryonic Ottoman state, located on the frontiers of the Islamic world, gradually absorbed and scholars flocked to Mehmet’s court, making him one of the greatest Renaissance patrons of his time.former Byzantine territories in Anatolia and the Balkans. In 1453, this expansion culminated in the Ottoman capture of Constantinople, the great capital of Eastern Christendom. With the conquest of the Mamluk empire in 1517, the Ottomans ruled over the most powerful state in the Islamic world. By the middle of the sixteenth century, continued military success in an area extending from Central Europe to the Indian Ocean gave the Ottomans the status of a world power.

In the arts, there is a paucity of extant objects from the early Ottoman period, but it is apparent from surviving buildings that Byzantine, Mamluk, and Persian traditions were integrated to form a distinctly Ottoman artistic vocabulary. Significant changes came about with the establishment of the new capital in former Byzantine Constantinople. After the conquest, Hagia Sophia, the great Byzantine church, was transformed into an imperial mosque and became a source of inspiration for Ottoman architects. Mehmet II (“the Conqueror,” r. 1444–46, 1451–81) envisaged the city as the center of his growing world empire and began an ambitious rebuilding program. He commissioned two palaces (the Old and the New, later Topkapi, palaces) as well as a mosque complex (the Mehmetiye, later Fatih complex), which combined religious, educational, social, and commercial functions. In his commissions, Mehmet drew from Turkic, Perso-Islamic, and Byzantine artistic repertoires. He was also interested in developments in western Europe. Ottoman, Iranian, and European artists.

Under Mehmet’s successors, his eclectic style, reflective of the mixed heritage of the Ottomans, was gradually integrated into a uniquely Ottoman artistic vocabulary. Further geographic expansion brought additions to this vocabulary. Most significantly, the victory against the Safavids at a battle in eastern Anatolia (1514) and the addition of Mamluk Syria, Egypt, and the Holy Cities of Islam (Mecca and Medina) to the Ottoman realm under Selim I (“the Grim,” r. 1512–20), led to the increased presence of Iranian and Arab artists and intellectuals at the Ottoman court.

The reign of Süleyman (popularly known as “the Magnificent” or “the Lawmaker”), often regarded as a “Golden Age,” was defined by geographic expansion, trade, and economic growth, as well as cultural and artistic activity. The age of Süleyman (r. 1520–66) witnessed the zenith of Ottoman art and culture. Among the most outstanding achievements of this period were the mosques and religious complexes built by Sinan (ca. 1500–1588), one of the most celebrated Islamic architects. Hundreds of public buildings were designed and constructed throughout the Ottoman empire, contributing to the dissemination of Ottoman culture. In the period following Süleyman’s death, architectural and artistic activity resumed under patrons from the imperial family and the ruling elite. Commissions continued outside the imperial capital, with many pious foundations established across the realm.

During the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, developments occurred in every artistic field, with those in architecture, calligraphymanuscript painting, textiles, and ceramics being particularly significant. Apart from Istanbul, various cities in the provinces were also recognized as major artistic and commercial centers: Iznik was renowned for ceramics, Bursa for silks and textiles, Cairo for the production of carpets, and Baghdad for the arts of the book. Ottoman visual culture had an impact in the different regions it ruled. Despite local variations, the legacy of the sixteenth-century Ottoman artistic tradition can still be seen in monuments from the Balkans to the Caucasus, from Algeria to Baghdad, and from Crimea to Yemen, that incorporate signature elements such as hemispherical domes, slender pencil-shaped minarets, and enclosed courts with domed porticoes. 

In the early seventeenth century, both Ottoman book production and architecture remained traditional. The court scriptorium continued to produce its established series of texts—biographies, travel accounts, genealogies, and geographies—many of which were illustrated or illuminated. The Mosque of Ahmet I in Istanbul (1609–16), also known as the “Blue Mosque” because of the interior tile scheme, continues in the vocabulary of the great architect Sinan (ca. 1500–1588). 

Later in the century, a weakening Ottoman economy began to affect the arts. An influx of gold and silver from the New World caused inflation and the treasury shrunk without military victories and booty to refill the coffers. The sultans were forced to reduce the number of artists they employed in the nakkaşhane (royal scriptorium) to ten from the high of over 120 in the time of Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66), and for many years did not increase the set prices they paid for ceramics, paintings, and carpets. It became more profitable for artists to produce items for the open market than to be tied to the workshops of the low-paying court, and sultans had to pass edicts forcing them to finish imperial commissions. One of the few arts that maintained a high level of quality was calligraphy. Hafiz Osman (1642–1698) was the master of this era, teacher to Sultan Mustafa II (r. 1695–1703) and his son, Sultan Ahmet III (r. 1703–30).

Under Ahmet III the arts revived. He built a new library at the Topkapi Palace and commissioned the Surnama (Book of Festivals, ca. 1720, Topkapi A.3593), which documents the circumcision of his four sons as recorded by the poet Vehbi. The paintings detail the festivities and processions through the streets of Istanbul, and were completed under the direction of the artist Levni (died 1732), whose work is also known from a set of portraits collected in a muraqqa‘ (Topkapi H.2164). While his style was traditional, other artists of his time were greatly affected by the European prints and engravings that began to circulate in Ottoman lands.

Ahmet’s reign is also known as the Tulip Period. The popularity of this flower is reflected in a new style of floral decoration that replaced the saz style of ornament with serrated leaves and cloud bands that had characterized Ottoman art for many years, and is found in textiles, illumination, and architectural ornament. The architecture of this period is exemplified in the monumental fountain constructed by Ahmet III outside the gate to the Topkapi Palace. Ambassadors dispatched to Paris and Vienna sparked further changes with their descriptions of the Baroque architecture of Versailles and Fontainebleau, but many of the Baroque-inspired palaces built during Ahmet’s reign were destroyed in the revolt that forced him to abdicate in 1730. The earliest building to survive is the Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque (1748–55), begun by Mahmud I and finished by Osman III. Its flamboyant decoration, ornate moldings, and vegetal carvings are the hallmark of the style that continued into the nineteenth century.

In the early seventeenth century, both Ottoman book production and architecture remained traditional. The court scriptorium continued to produce its established series of texts—biographies, travel accounts, genealogies, and geographies—many of which were illustrated or illuminated. The Mosque of Ahmet I in Istanbul (1609–16), also known as the “Blue Mosque” because of the interior tile scheme, continues in the vocabulary of the great architect Sinan (ca. 1500–1588).

Later in the century, a weakening Ottoman economy began to affect the arts. An influx of gold and silver from the New World caused inflation and the treasury shrunk without military victories and booty to refill the coffers. The sultans were forced to reduce the number of artists they employed in the nakkaşhane (royal scriptorium) to ten from the high of over 120 in the time of Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66), and for many years did not increase the set prices they paid for ceramics, paintings, and carpets. It became more profitable for artists to produce items for the open market than to be tied to the workshops of the low-paying court, and sultans had to pass edicts forcing them to finish imperial commissions. One of the few arts that maintained a high level of quality was calligraphy. Hafiz Osman (1642–1698) was the master of this era, teacher to Sultan Mustafa II (r. 1695–1703) and his son, Sultan Ahmet III (r. 1703–30).

Under Ahmet III the arts revived. He built a new library at the Topkapi Palace and commissioned the Surnama (Book of Festivals, ca. 1720, Topkapi A.3593), which documents the circumcision of his four sons as recorded by the poet Vehbi. The paintings detail the festivities and processions through the streets of Istanbul, and were completed under the direction of the artist Levni (died 1732), whose work is also known from a set of portraits collected in a muraqqa‘ (Topkapi H.2164). While his style was traditional, other artists of his time were greatly affected by the European prints and engravings that began to circulate in Ottoman lands.

Ahmet’s reign is also known as the Tulip Period. The popularity of this flower is reflected in a new style of floral decoration that replaced the saz style of ornament with serrated leaves and cloud bands that had characterized Ottoman art for many years, and is found in textiles, illumination, and architectural ornament. The architecture of this period is exemplified in the monumental fountain constructed by Ahmet III outside the gate to the Topkapi Palace. Ambassadors dispatched to Paris and Vienna sparked further changes with their descriptions of the Baroque architecture of Versailles and Fontainebleau, but many of the Baroque-inspired palaces built during Ahmet’s reign were destroyed in the revolt that forced him to abdicate in 1730. The earliest building to survive is the Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque (1748–55), begun by Mahmud I and finished by Osman III. Its flamboyant decoration, ornate moldings, and vegetal carvings are the hallmark of the style that continued into the nineteenth century.

Citation

Yalman, Suzan. “The Art of the Ottomans before 1600.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/otto1/hd_otto1.htm (October 2002)

Sardar, Marika. “The Art of the Ottomans after 1600.” In Heilbrunn

Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/otto_2/hd_otto_2.htm (October 2003)

Source: The Art of the Ottomans before 1600 | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (metmuseum.org)

Development of the ottoman style

The stylized floral designs now emblematic of the classical Ottoman style were developed during the reign of Süleyman I, also known as Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66), as an alternative to the “International Style” that prevailed in the area during the early period of rule from the mid-fifteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries. Textile designs feature iconography shared with other decorative media designed by the nakkaşhane (royal design atelier) and adapted to the constraints of the loom to create elegant repeat patterns. The most popular layouts ranged from floral motifs characterized by wavy vertical stems with blooming palmettes(52.20.21), carnations, or pomegranate fruit (52.20.19), to large-scale ogival layouts with delicate peony blossoms creating a lattice pattern (49.32.79). Lattice layouts became popular during the reign of Süleyman I and may also reflect layouts and motifs used in architectural tile decoration from Iznik, or earlier Mamluk silks themselves inspired by Chinese examples.

Another popular decorative motif reproduced on textiles is the chintamani design (08.109.23), usually depicted as two wavy horizontal bands alternating with three circles in triangular formation. Translated from Sanskrit as “auspicious jewel,” the motif originated in Buddhist imagery, including the paintings at the Central Asian Mogao caves (ca. 1000 A.D.), and may represent pearls and flames. The design elements of chintamani are alternately referenced as “tiger stripes” and “leopard spots.” Similar iconography is found in sixteenth-century Persian manuscript paintings featuring the Shahnama‘s hero, Rustam, who wears a garment of tiger skin and a leopard-skin hat depicted in a similar fashion, and possibly represents the fabric in Ottoman documents called pelengi (leopardlike) or benekli (dotted). Occasionally, chintamani is combined with floral elements (44.41.3) in a delicate balance of the two distinctive styles, or the wavy lines and circular elements are separated to create singular motifs (15.125.7). In any combination, elements of chintamani were believed to protect the wearer and to imbue him with physical and spiritual fortitude.

Source: www.metmuseum.org

Ottoman empire textile

Throughout its early modern history the Ottoman Empire contained a sizeable number of textile-producing centres. Most of the materials woven here formed part of the manufacturing traditions of the Islamic world; these included figured velvets and silks, but also carpets, rugs and fancy cotton towels. of woollens in Salonica, had been introduced around 1500 by Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain. Thus where the production and distribution of textiles was concerned, the Ottomans shared certain characteristic features with Iran and India on the one hand and with central — and even western — Europe on the other. Ottoman cottons must therefore be studied in a broad geographic, economic and cultural context.

Concomitantly, isolating cotton production is somewhat artificial, even though for analytical purposes we cannot avoid doing so. While the cultivation of the raw fibre formed part of regional agricultural economies, dominated by wheat and barley, weaving cotton into cloth might involve the addition of other fibres, and thus traders and craftspeople dealing with silk and wool were brought into close contact with cotton weavers. In addition once we enter the distribution sector, we find that cotton once again is integrated into a larger picture. The export of raw cotton and cotton fabrics, about which we happen to know most, is to a large extent part of the Ottoman trade with Venice and later with France; and this encompassed silk and angora wool as well as cotton. And from the retailing merchants‘ point of view, the cotton textiles that they marketed might well be merely one of the numerous goods for which they tried to find customers. Thus even though our study is concerned with the cotton sector, along the way we will need to concern ourselves with the manner in which this branch of production fitted into the Ottoman economy as a whole.

silk textiles in content

Most Ottoman silks produced for use within the empire were used either for garments or furnishings. The outer garments for Ottoman men incorporated trousers and a matching kaftan a floor-length crossover robe or sleeveless vest, perhaps adapted from traditional tribal riding costumes of the Central Asian and Iranian steppes. The Ottoman sultans were known for their elaborate ceremonies and parades in the capital of Istanbul, during which every member of the court, from child princes to Janissaries, would be clothed in a new garment for the occasion. In this context, the large-scale patterning of ogival lattice designs and chintamani would have provided maximum impact. Women’s garments were typically the same style, with more layering, slightly more tailoring, and smaller-scale patterns. The extensive documentation and storage of Ottoman garments and hangings in the Topkapi Palace provide historians with contextual information and extant examples for analysis.

Textiles used for furnishings included cushion covers (yastik) for seating in the reception rooms (selamlik) in palace pavilions and upper-class homes, as well as interiors for tents during military campaigns. Yastik panels were often designed to fit the width of the loom so multiple covers could be cut to exact dimension from a single bolt without sacrificing any of the precious material.