There is an ancient tradition of creating visual representations for written texts and oral narratives; this tradition was embraced and sustained within the Islamic world with illustrated books that were produced under the auspices of the educated ruling class and intelligentsia. Ottoman pictorial art was also substantially committed to the visual tradition of the Islamic world. Though diverse, it followed the main principles of the narrative language of book illustrations that flourished in this world. The painting art of the Istanbul/Ottoman palace went through changes and transformations over the course of the centuries, but nevertheless reflects a distinctive continuity as far as the skills that were transferred from master to apprentice are concerned.

Early Examples

In the Ottoman state, which gained strength in the western part of the Islamic world after the second half of the fourteenth century, the preparation of illustrated manuscripts and the sultans’ patronage of pictorial art coincide with the years following the conquest of Constantinople. Although we have no knowledge of Ottoman sultans’ interest in illustrated books before this period, some clues exist regarding their interest in objects that contained depictions. An illustrated copy of the İskendernâme (Saga of Alexander) by the poet Ahmedî (d. 1416) was prepared in Amasya in AH 819 (AD 1416). This was a time when artistic activities were pursued in Bursa under the patronage of Mehmed I (1413–1421), Murad II (1421–1444; 1446–1451), and the statesman Umur Bey (d. 1461), and Ahmedî was under their patronage. Some of these illustrations stand out as the first illustrations about Ottoman history. This fact suggests that there was an interest in the production of illustrated manuscripts as early as 1416 in Amasya, a region that was the favorite Ottoman prince district.1

The examples of Turkish miniature art began to increase when the capital was moved from Bursa to Edirne, and later to Istanbul. Among the pictorial art works of this period, only one is known to have been registered with information about when and where it was prepared. The other manuscripts are ascribed to years around this time and to the same center of production—Edirne—because of the stylistic features of their illustrations and their similarity to this manuscript. One small manuscript, the ketebe (clerical registration) of which states that this work was prepared in Edirne in 860 (1455–1456), is the Dilsûznâme (Saga of the Mute), which narrates the desperate love between a rose and a nightingale.2 A second work, believed also to have been created in Edirne, compiles the poems of Kâtibî, and is the poet’s Külliyât (corpus).3 Apart from the aforementioned literary works, three illustrated copies of Ahmedî’s (d. 1413) İskendernâme were also produced during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (1444–1446; 1451–1481). One of these, dating from the 1460s, includes sixty-six pictures, most of which were designed on a double page and drawn by three or four different artists.4 This work was prepared in the same environment as the Edirne manuscripts, but is a much more imperial work compared to the other two Ahmedî manuscripts. It is large, and contains populous scenes, illuminations of architectural structures, rich items of nature, and brilliant colors. The illustrations in the Venetian copy demonstrate that history is defined by the portrait of the ruler and there is a tendency to exhibit magnificence by having a design of the Ottoman dynastic history on double pages. The adoration in which the İskendernâme was held and the many copies of it that were produced are largely due to Mehmed II’s esteem for Alexander the Great, a world conqueror in history and in legend, whom the sultan took as an example in conceiving his own imperial claim.

In the treasury of Sultan Mehmed II, there were a large number of scientific books in various languages, from both the East and the West, concerned with geography, medicine, history, philosophy and rhetoric. Between 1460 and 1480, books by famous scholars of the Islamic world were copied in nastaleeq, naskh, and diwani calligraphy by calligraphers, most of whom had emigrated from the lands of the Akkoyunlu Turkomans and Timur, and they were illuminated by master tezhipçis (illuminators) and bound by master bookbinders. Registration records (ketebe) document that these books were prepared in Edirne first, but in Istanbul after 1465. There was a need to prepare these books, which were works of art, under the supervision of the palace, thus leading to the creation of a palace workshop. This kind of a workshop must have been established in the Saray-ı Cedid (New Palace), later to be known as Topkapı Palace, constructed between 1460 and 1478.

The following factors accelerated the migration of book artists in the service of the Akkoyunlu dynasty from Isfahan, Shiraz, and Tabriz to Istanbul: the political relationship between Sultan Mehmed II and the Akkoyunlus, the war with Sultan Uzun Hasan (r. 1453–1478), the location of the hub of Akkoyunlu book production in Shiraz, and the fact that Uğurlu Mehmed (d. 1477), the son of Uzun Hasan who for a while served as the governor of Isfahan, sought refuge in the Istanbul at the Ottoman palace and married Sultan Mehmed’s daughter. Moreover, other artists immigrated from Herat and Samarkand, areas which were ruled by the Timurids. Thus, a copy of Hamse-i Nizâmî, which is thought to have been brought to Istanbul as a result of these relationships, was dedicated to Sultan Mehmed II.5 Another copy of Hamse-i Nizâmî,6 copied in Herat and illuminated and illustrated by Hoca Ali during the Timurid period around the middle of the fifteenth century, arrived in Istanbul without completed pictures. This precious book’s empty pages were filled in Western style by an Istanbul palace miniaturist at the end of the fifteenth century.7

Western Artists in Istanbul: Portraits of Sultan Mehmed II 8

Because of the political and commercial relationships he had established with European states, particularly with the Italians, Sultan Mehmed II was also aware of the bustling art world in Europe. His interest in portraits was multi-faceted. Like the kings of ancient eras, Renaissance humanists had medals cast with their portraits on them. Sultan Mehmed II also wanted to immortalize his own image by commissioning medals with his portrait, as the renowned historical rulers had done; he also used this image for propaganda purposes. In 1461, he sent a letter through a Venetian merchant to the lord of Rimini, Sigismondo Malatesta, asking him to send Matteo de’ Pasti to Istanbul. A few years later, again on the demand of Sultan Mehmed II, the king of Naples, Ferdinando Ferrante, sent Master Costanzo da Ferrara, who was of Venetian origin, to Istanbul. The most famous work by the artist, who is thought to have come to Istanbul in 1467 or 1478, is a medallion with a portrait. There is a bust on one side of this medallion, and a portrait depicting the sultan on a horse on the other side.9

Sultan Mehmed II, who also established connections with Florence, asked for sculptors, furnishers, and wood masters, even an organ maker, to be sent from Florence. Sultan Mehmed II demanded from the governor of Venice a painter and sculptor skilled in making bronzes. In 1479, the artist Gentile Bellini (d. 1507) from Venice and the sculptor Bartolomeo Bellano (d. 1496) from Padua came to Istanbul with their assistants. Bellini, who stayed in Istanbul for eighteen months, received many orders from the palace. Moreover, it is thought that the walls of the Western-style mansion, which are believed to have been commissioned by Sultan Mehmed II, were painted by Gentile. Bellini also produced a medal with a portrait of Sultan Mehmed II. The bust of the sultan is on the front side of the medal, and a pattern of three crowns, thought to represent Greece, Asia, and Trabzon, over which Sultan Mehmed II ruled, was on the reverse side.10

1- The portrait of Sultan Mehmed II. From an album. It is attributed to Sinan Bey (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. 2153, fol. 145a)

Only a single example of the oil portraits produced by Bellini remains today. In it, the sultan, who is depicted in a three-quarters profile, is framed by a magnificent arch. The indistinct inscriptions under both sides of the arches give the date, November 25, 1480, and state that Sultan Mehmed II was the emperor of the world and that he had achieved a great victory.11

The foreign artists working in the palace during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II had an influence on Ottoman art. We learn from the Menâkıb-ı Hünerverân, an important reference book for art history, written by the Ottoman chronicler and distinguished bureaucrat Mustafa Âlî (d. 1600), that during this period, portraits of Sultan Mehmed II were produced by local masters in the Istanbul palace workshops. According to Âlî, Sinan Bey, who was trained by European masters, painted one such portrait of Sultan Mehmed II. Ahmed Şiblîzade of Bursa, who was the best portrait painter, was Sinan Bey’s student.12 There are two unsigned portraits of Sultan Mehmed II in an album that is kept in the Topkapı Palace Museum Library. One of these is a bust inspired by the Costanzo da Ferrara medal, and it reflects similarities to Western techniques; this is thought to have been created by Sinan Bey, as he was trained by Italian artists13 (Picture 1). It is argued that the portrait of “Sultan Mehmed II Smelling a Rose,” which is included in the same album, could have been produced by Şiblîzade Ahmed, the aforementioned student of Sinan Bey.14 It was in the realm of portraits that the European artists who came to Istanbul and to Sultan Mehmed II’s palace—including Sinan Bey, who is thought to have received a Western education—made their greatest contribution to Ottoman pictorial art. The portraits of Ottoman sultans began in this period and continued as an active genre until the nineteenth century; more portraits of sultans were been produced in Istanbul than in any other Islamic state.15

Reflections from Amasya to Istanbul: The Reign of Bayezid II

2- A council of a writer, engraver, scribe, and a scholar (<em>Şehname-i Selim Han</em>, 1581) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, A., no. 3595, fol. 9a)

Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512) served as the governor of Amasya for twenty-seven years before becoming sultan. The intensity of cultural activities in Amasya during this time period is apparent from the poets and calligraphers who surrounded the prince and from the books they and others wrote. Bayezid’s patronage of culture continued after his accession to the throne. Envoys from both the West and the East continued to visit the Ottoman palace; they presented portraits of their rulers along with other diplomatic gifts, thus introducing their rulers to the sultan. Furthermore, it is known that the Italian elites who lived in the Ottoman territory and had a relationship with the palace tried to have two famous artists of that time, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, work for the Ottoman sultan. However, they did not have the opportunity to visit Istanbul. During the reign of Bayezid II, literary works such as Kelile ve Dimne16 and Hüsrev ve Şirin17 were illustrated at the nakkaşhane (painters’ workshop) in the palace, similar to the tradition that existed in the palace of Timur and the Turkomans, contemporaries of Bayezid. The Persian Mihr ü Müşterî of the Iranian poet Muhammed Assar (d. 1382–1383), which was frequently illustrated in the fifteenth century in the Akkoyunlu Turkoman workshops, was translated into Turkish by İbrahim of Amasya in 892 (1487), probably for Bayezid II.18 A Persian copy of this work, illustrated on 18 Ramadan 887 (October 31, 1482) in one of the workshops of the Akkoyunlu Turkomans in Shiraz was also dedicated to Bayezid II.19

The poets who later became the source of classical Ottoman poetry and prose were generally those who arose under the auspices of Bayezid II, and poetry was popular as a profession during this period. Chronicles and history writing also advanced during this period, and İdris-i Bitlisî (d. 1520), Neşrî (d. 1520), and Kemalpaşazade (d. 1534) produced their works under the patronage of Bayezid II. The Şehnâme-i Melik-i Ümmî is a history in verse, copied and most likely illustrated by the miniaturist Derviş Mahmud b. Abdullah.20 It is possible that this short history, which recounts incidents that took place in the reign of Bayezid II between 1481 and 1484, was perhaps an attempt at writing a şehnâme. Melik-i Ümmî, the palace chronicler, was commissioned to write it. It is likely that the clerk and miniaturist Derviş Mahmud b. Abdullah was brought from the Tabriz nakkaşhane—where he had worked under the direction of the Akkoyunlu Turkoman sultan Yakub (r. 1478–1490)—first to Amasya (while Bayezid II was the prince there) and then to Istanbul when Bayezid II became the sultan.21 The Şehnâme-i Melik-i Ümmî, which is thought to have been illustrated around 1490, reflects depictions that, similar to other works from the period, were inspired by contemporary Akkoyunlu Turkoman illustrations: the ground is covered with green leaves and the skies are in gold, with large white clouds. However, Ottoman fashion and style are reflected in the depiction of trees colored in different shades, in door and window spaces that invite a view into the depths of the architecture, in the pointed chimneys, in the mansions, positioned one above the other, and in the attire of the men and women. The poet Uzun Firdevsî of Bursa wrote the Süleymânnâme, which tells the story of the life of Prophet Solomon—a ruler and sage from the East. The tale is full of extraordinary events, but it also contains encyclopedic information. It was illustrated and presented to Bayezid II.22 There is a two-page illustration that depicts Prophet Solomon in a mansion with a dome and the Queen of Sheba residing in a similar mansion. If one considers the amount of money given to poets, miniaturists, calligraphers, authors, and those who presented gifts alongside the information in the treasury census registers and the lists of books, it can be said that in comparison to the stagnancy of the political scene of the period, the cultural environment, at least in the areas in which the sultan was interested, was rather lively.

The Position of Miniaturists in the Ottoman Palace Organization

After the Ottoman state began to take on the characteristics of an empire, the palace administration established an artist community, known as ehl-i hıref, within the Ottoman palace organization. When the Ottoman state was at its height in political power and had a generous treasury, this community, which carried out a variety of palace arts and crafts and received wages from the palace, had a large staff. Palace expenditures on the work of this artist community over the course of centuries and the payments made to the artists demonstrate that the palace administration took upon itself the duty of financial supporting artwork production, and that it and considered such support to be both the responsibility of the state and an indication of its power.

The book artists of the Ottoman palace (musavvir, müzehhip, mücellit; illustrator, illuminator, binder) were included in subdivisions under the titles of kâtip (clerk), mücellit (book binder), and nakkaş (miniaturist) within the ehl-i hıref organization and, similar to other members of this organization, were paid based on a daily wage every three months. The wages and promotions received by musavvirs were recorded in the wage registers, in a way similar to those of the müzehhips, mücellits, and apprentices. When there was a great deal of work to be completed, or when there was no one qualified to carry out a particular task within the ehl-i hıref, specialists would be employed in the palace at a fee. Miniaturists or other artists who presented works to the sultan, particularly on religious holidays, would be rewarded with money or robes of honor; the name of the artist who produced the work, the type of that work, and the amount of money paid for it or the type of honor bestowed upon the artist would be registered in the in’am register. It is understood that the hazinedarbaşı (chief treasurer), or from time to time the bina emini (building guard), was responsible not only for appointing, paying, promoting, and dismissing the musavvirs and all other artists at the nakkaşhane, but also for officially giving them their assignments. Senior officials of the administration were responsible for proposals regarding the preparation of books with artistic value. Each artist employed in the nakkaşhane of the palace, whether affiliated with the ehl-i hıref or not, was obliged to produce works in accordance with the demands of the administration. However, the artist was free to come up with a novel harmony and new ways to create beautiful art. Despite the fact that book artists from the beginning of the sixteenth century onward came from different artistic environments, all had attained the peak of skills in creating art in its traditional forms as well as planting the seeds of new traditions. By this time, the works produced displayed features that were unique to Turkish art (Picture 2).

There is no clear information regarding where those employed in the preparation of manuscripts worked in the palace. Some artists created their work in the first courtyard of the palace. It is known that one such nakkaşhane was located outside the Bâb-ı Hümayun of Topkapı Palace, on the upper floor of the Arslanhane building; this building is no longer standing today.23 Evliya Çelebi (d. 1682) tells us in detail about the nakkaş and ressam nakkaş artists of Istanbul. We learn from Çelebi that some of these artists worked in rooms on different floors of the Arslanhane, while others worked elsewhere or in their homes; some worked in their shops, in which were hung colorful works by famous artists and depictions of şehnâme heroes.24

The Beginning of a Productive Period for Miniatures: The First Half of the Sixteenth Century

3- Depiction of Istanbul by Matrakçı Nasuh (Mecmua-i Menazil, circa 1537) (Istanbul University Library, no. T. 5964, fol. 8b-9a)

The rulers of the Ottoman state, primarily the sultan and the viziers, appreciated the wealth of the countries annexed to Ottoman lands and the value of the artists and artwork produced in these areas. Some of the movable works and artists were brought to the Ottoman palace. The artists who were brought from Tabriz, particularly in the reign of Selim I (1512–1520), helped elevate Ottoman nakkaşhanes to a new height. When Selim I conquered Tabriz from the Safavids in 1514, the Tabriz nakkaşhane, which operated with a large staff, was considered to be the best in the Islamic world, particularly in book art. The sultan of the Safavids, Shah Ismail (r. 1502–1524), took Shiraz and its surroundings from the Akkoyunlu; this city was one in which superior works were prepared in Islamic art; he also took Herat from Timur and gathered famous artists and the important products of their workshops at the Safavid nakkaşhane. Thus, when Selim I conquered Tabriz, he must have found its nakkaşhane full of the best artists and works of art. A group of artists from Tabriz, including artists from Khorasan, were sent to the Istanbul nakkaşhane. The Mantıku’t-tayr, dated 15 Muharrem 921 (March 2, 1515), was illustrated in this imperial nakkaşhane.25 This work by Attâr (d. 1221) had a distinguished value in Turkish art, as it provided an example for an important group of Ottoman miniatures that were made in the following years; these include gaunt figures wearing large turbans as well as skinny ones, clusters of green leaves and flowers, and leaning cypress trees. The Dîvân-ı Selîmî is another example of work from this period. It bears the oval seal of Selim I on the last page and is one of the masterpieces of Turkish book art with its tezhip, halkâri,26 and illustrations.27

In addition to this, the history of Sultan Selim I’s reign was illustrated by an artist from Khorasan who arrived at the palace nakkaşhane via Tabriz; he was one of a group of artists who carried out illustrations for literary works at the end of the 1520s.28 Furthermore, works by Ali Şir Nevâ’î (d. 1501) and Molla Câmî (d. 1492), whose works in the Jagatai language gained fame in the Ottoman palace at the end of fifteenth century and at the beginning of sixteenth century, were the leading books to be selected for illustration. Ali Şir Nevâ’î’s Hamse was copied by the calligrapher Pir Ahmed b. İskender in 937 (1530–1531); the tezhip and sixteen miniatures in the book and the patent leather binding of the book were also produced by the artist.29

4- The ceremony for the ascension of Sultan Süleyman I to the throne in Topkapı Palace (<em>Süleymanname</em>, 1558) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H., no. 1517, fol.18b-18a)

A New Type of Depiction: Matrakçı Nasûh’s Illustrations

5- Şehzade Selim throwing an arrow to a target. From an album. Painted by Nigari (1561-1562) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H., no. 2134, fol. 2b-3a)

Nasûh b. Karagöz b. Abdullah el-Bosnevî (d. 1564) joined Enderun (the inner palace circle) during the reign of Bayezid II; he is famous for the history books he began to write in 1517–1520 at the request of Sultan Süleyman; Matrakçı Nasûh also illustrated several chapters of these works. One of the illustrated chapters is Târîh-i Sultan Bâyezîd (History of Sultan Bayezid), which recounts the events of the era of Bayezid II and includes pictures of castles and harbors that were conquered during this time.30 The second illustrated work, which is a form of Selîmnâme, recounts the events from Selim I’s accession to the throne until his death; pictures which portray only cities are included in the chapter on the Tabriz expedition.31 Beyân-ı Menâzil-i Sefer-i Irâkeyn (Explanation of the Stages of the Iraq Expedition) is concerned with the Iran–Iraq expedition that Sultan Süleyman carried out between 1534 and 1536. Each day, Nasûh recorded the places they stopped during the expedition from Istanbul to Tabriz and to Baghdad, documenting the architectural details and topographic characteristics of these places with 128 illustrations, some of which cover two pages.32 Another illustrated history by Nasûh, Târîh-i Feth-i Şikloş ve İstolnibelgrad (History of the Conquest of Siklós and Székesfehérvár), is concerned with the Hungarian expedition from the era of Sultan Süleyman I in 1543 and the expedition carried out by Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha (d. 1546) to the harbors of southern Europe.33 Of these two expeditions, which occurred in the same year, Nasûh must have joined the Hungarian expedition in the service of the sultan and drawn the illustrations of the other expedition, which he did not attend in person, with the help of available maps. Nasûh provided a dazzling layout of the topographical landscapes with the pictures he drew between 1537 and 1545; he depicted with his brush what he could not recount in words, made a breakthrough in Islamic landscape painting, and offered photographic-like documentation about the conditions of cities in the sixteenth century.34

Istanbul as Depicted by the Brush of Matrakçı Nasûh

One of the most detailed drawings made by Matrakçı is an image of Istanbul (Picture 3). It is possible that Matrakçı made use of the European bird’s-eye-view maps of the city prepared during the previous centuries. The city is drawn from the direction of the Golden Horn. Almost all of the important buildings located in the Historical Peninsula are included in the drawing.35 Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, İbrahim Paşa Palace, the Old Palace, the Grand Bazaar, the Bayezid II, Fatih, and Eyüp mosque complexes, and Yedikule are all drawn in full detail. The coastline is also carefully depicted, as in the case of the Kadırga Harbor. Üsküdar, the Maiden’s Tower, and Galata are depicted as miniatures. The Galata district, surrounded by city walls on the opposite shore, is in the shape of a hill ascending to the Galata Tower. The shipyard on the shore is noticeable. Galata appears to have been drawn from the opposite side. The city stretches over the Golden Horn towards Eyüp. The Maiden’s Tower and Üsküdar are visible on the other end. Similar to other depictions by Matrakçı, no figures are included in this depiction. The sailboats floating in the Golden Horn and on the Marmara, galleons firing their cannons in front of the shipyard, cypresses on the ridges of Galata, fruit trees, and colorful plants all prove that as much as Matrakçı was a great city depicter, he was also a master miniaturist. He left behind a unique document depicting Istanbul’s condition in the 1530s.

The Beginning of Grand Designs

A unique Ottoman imperial style emerged in miniature painting after the 1520s. This was created with the contributions of miniaturists from Tabriz, as well as those of the artists trained in the Ottoman palace or selected from among the tradesmen of Istanbul. These years were the beginning of a period when the Ottoman state began to gain power both in the East and West, and when the revenues of the state increased. It was during this period of intense state affairs that the Ottoman administrative cadres spent freely to create the firm foundations of a mature organization that would be able to steer the Ottoman palace. This organization was the imperial nakkaşhane. As patrons of the arts, Sultan Süleyman (r. 1520–1566) and grand viziers Rüstem (d. 1561) and Sokullu Mehmed (d. 1579) had a major role in the organization of the imperial nakkaşhane and in helping art to attain a degree of lively ostentation, luxury, and richness befitting the dignity of the empire. They also played a role in the production of elegant, beautiful, and graceful artwork and in art’s evolution as a demonstration of power. Moreover, in the following years, the preparation of imperial artistic books was directed by the power group of the aghas; at first it was the ak Bâbüssaâde agha and kara Darüssaade agha, and later it was only the kara Darüssaade agha who led this task.36

Architect Sinan (d. 1588) began Istanbul’s first two grand structures—namely, Şehzade Mehmed Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque—in 1544 and in 1550, respectively. The former was opened in 1548, and the latter in 1557. The preparations for the design of two great books were also carried out around this period. One of these was an illuminated Qur’anic codex,37 which was to measure 61.5 x 42.5 cm; Ahmed Karahisarî (d. 1556) was commissioned as its calligrapher. The other work was Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osmân (Ottoman History), which is mentioned below.38 While the history book was completed in 1558, the calligrapher’s death left the Qur’an incomplete until 1596. When the Safavid prince and governor of Şirvan Elkâs Mîrza sought refuge in Istanbul in 1547, Eflatun Şirvanî, the prince’s bookkeeper and a master of nastaleeq calligraphy, painting, and illumination, accompanied him. Fethullah Çelebi (d. 1561), whose penname was Ârifî, was assigned as the nişancı (court calligrapher) to the prince during his stay in Istanbul. Ârifî, who was a poet admired by Sultan Süleyman, was officially appointed to the position of şehnameci (poetic chronicler) and asked to write a şehnâme in the meter of the Şahnâme by the renowned poet Ferdowsi, beginning from the period when the Ottoman sultans first appeared in history. Clerks and painters were placed in Ârifî’s service. Ârifî wrote this work, which he titled Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osmân, in Persian in five illustrated and illuminated volumes.39 The first volume is the Enbiyânâme, which is concerned with the history of the prophets from Adam to Noah (Italy, private collection). It is unknown where the second and third volumes of this work are located today. The fourth volume, titled Osmânnâme, whose final section is missing, recounts the events occurring from the reign of Osman Gazi to that of Bayezid I (Italy, private collection). Finally, the Süleymânnâme, which recounts the 1520–1558 period of the reign of Sultan Süleyman, and which was copied by the calligrapher Ali of Şirvan, is the fifth and final volume of the poetic şehnâme by Ârifî.40 This volume, completed in Ramadan 1558 (end of June, beginning of July 1558), had sixty-nine miniatures drawn by five artists (Picture 4). One of the painters created drawings adorned with deep observations and rich content, providing an important historical source. The specific value of this work for Islamic art is derived primarily from the artistic choices of the artist. At the beginning of the book, the artist placed depictions bearing the characteristics of a document that illustrates the ceremony of Sultan Süleyman’s accession to the throne in Topkapı Palace, the buildings located in the first and second courtyard of Topkapı Palace during his reign, and the ongoing life there. The style of this painting suggests that the artist, believed to be the head of the group of miniaturists who undertook the illustration of the poetic history by Ârifî and whose name has not yet been identified, could be Nakkaş Osman, who established characteristics that were unique to the “Turkish Picture” in the second half of the sixteenth century.41

Another illustrator of the Süleymânnâme broke new ground in the depiction of figures. Color tone was applied skillfully to the faces of the human figures, the folds of the clothing, and to some architectural elements, all of which made moving or motionless figures gain dimensions in these illustrations.42 Numerous pictures by a miniaturist applying the nakışçı style can be found within this work as well.43 One particular scene,44 depicting the Hungarian king, his military camp, and the armor of the Hungarian soldiers, was drawn with meticulous observation. Furthermore, the name of the Hungarian Nakkaş Pervane can be found in a document dated 1558. These two facts suggest that one of the Süleymânnâme painters was of Hungarian origin. The Süleymânnâme’s author and calligrapher, as well as its binding, illumination, and illustrations, make it a work that emphasizes the status of Turkish illustration in the Ottoman era as an imperial art form open to foreign intellectual and artistic stimuli.

A Portrait Painter from Galata: Haydar Reis, Known with a Pen-name Nigârî

When the son of Sultan Süleyman, Selim came to Kütahya in 1562, many talented artists gathered around him, and beautiful wine and poetry gatherings became widespread. Nakkaş Nigârî (d. 1572) was an important poet who was part of this imperial circle. Nigârî reflected the atmosphere of Kütahya in one of the pictures he made. On the left-hand side of the picture, drawn on a double page, Shahzada Selim is depicted as sitting down, slightly drunk, with a glass in one of his hands; his retinue and musicians are portrayed on the right.45 It is stated in the şuara tezkere (poets memoranda) that Nakkaş Nigârî lived in the Tophane neighborhood of Galata in Istanbul, that his house was a place where the elites of the period gathered, that he operated a tavern in Eyüp which later became a tekke (lodge) for dervishes and for the secluded, and that he was a master in using colors, in drawing women who were as beautiful as gazelles, and in drawing faces like Mani and Behzad. Because he was from Galata, Nakkaş Nigârî met with sailors and he himself sailed, and from this time on he was known as Haydar Reis. It is thought that in this way he met Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha (d. 1546) and drew his profile portrait.46 Moreover, Nigârî drew miniatures47 of Sultan Süleyman standing,48 Selim II shooting an arrow at a target (1566–1574)49 (Picture 5), and the king of France François I (1515–1517) and the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Charles V (1519–1558) in bust form.50

Muraqqa Pictures: Şah Kulu and Veli Can

6- Ayasofya Mosque (<em>Şehname-i Selim Han</em>, 1581) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, A., no. 3595, fol. 156a)

The production of collage-style works known as muraqqa—which brought together single-page works by calligraphers, artists, and müzehhips who worked in the Ottoman imperial nakkaşhane from contemporary and earlier eras—became widespread after the first half of the sixteenth century. In addition to müzehhips, musavvirs, kâtips, and cetvelkeşes (people who drew the border on the page), people who had mastered the art of book restoration (vassale) made significant contributions to meticulously placing the works, one by one, on the muraqqa pages. In spite of the production differences between regions and across centuries, the works were brought together on the same page with such attentive calculation, talent, and harmony that the superior level of maturity attained by the nakkaşhane and the power of the art of this period can easily be observed in muraqqas. Nakkaş Karamemi and the artist Şah Kulu were müzehhips who contributed to Turkish art, producing muraqqas full of fluent and beautiful lines and graceful and fine motifs; these were prepared in the imperial nakkaşhane at the beginning of the sixteenth century.51

The works that bear the signature of Şah Kulu—who is known to have worked within the Ottoman imperial nakkaşhane between 1520 and 1556—and other works attributed to him consist of depictions of dragons52 whose bodies are delineated by a thick line, dagger-style leaves on branches that are bent or broken by a sudden curve, hatayî53 patterns or bouquets,54 and pictures of fairies dressed up as elaborately as the work of a jeweler.55 Şah Kulu, whose style can be identified by these examples, created what is known as the saz (intricate, dense) style.56 This style, which had a profound impact on the imperial nakkaşhane after the 1520s, was the symbol of Turkish decoration for centuries. These pictures are works of great imagination that stand in contrast to the realism of historical paintings.

The tradition of preparing muraqqa became even more widespread by the end of the sixteenth century. One of the muraqqas from this period was prepared for Sultan Murad III.57 In this muraqqa, there are illustrations and miniatures drawn in the saz style with ink and brush, plate illuminations, calligraphy by renowned scribes, and dazzling halkâr (a specific technique of using gold in illumination) decorations embellishing the edge of the pages.58 The muraqqas of this era also contain signed pictures. The signature “Velî Cân” is a common one found on these pictures. Veli Can was a student of Siyâvuş, the portrait painter for the Safavid palace who came to Istanbul from Tabriz at the beginning of the 1580s. Veli Can was one of the artists who worked on the imperial nakkaşhane masterpieces between 1582 and 1588. The pictures that bear his signature indicate that he mastered the portraits of two men or a single person standing up or lying down, as well as reeds, hatayî bouquets, depictions of fairies, and animal drawings in the kalem-i siyahî style, which is drawn with black ink and brush, and occasionally colored in pink and gilding.59

Changing Themes and Styles: The Second Half of the Sixteenth Century

After the second half of the sixteenth century, the works of the imperial nakkaşhane became completely different from pictorial art in other Islamic countries, particularly that of the Safavids, in terms of their style and theme. Depictions of nature were not expressed with the embellishing elements found in the miniatures of the Jalayirid, Turkoman, and Timurid states that had had famous nakkaşhanes in earlier centuries, or in those of the Safavids, the Ottomans’ contemporaries. The fairytale world of the East, meticulously drawn flower gardens, multi-story mansions with embellished walls, and thin, graceful beauties did not exist in the world of Ottoman artistic depictions. Ottoman painters approached nature from a realistic perspective. They placed events within landscapes that resembled maps and preferred to express the details they could not recount in the text through illustrations. The colors used by the Ottoman painters, who did not employ shading, create a clarity in the picture and help the elements of the scene to be comprehended at first glance. The main lines of their pictorial organization are parallel, diagonal, or snaking turns. The borders do not melt away within this organization; rather, each item is clearly delineated. The administration of the imperial nakkaşhane introduced innovations not only in the illustration of Islamic books, but also in the selection of themes to be illustrated. The many different sorts of subjects that were illustrated include the wars waged by the sultans and the pashas, the reception of messengers, the skills of the sultans in hunting, shooting, archery, and throwing javelins, military parades marching with a splendor befitting the majesty of sultans, wedding festivities, and sultans’ portraits. What can be detected in all of these pictures is the existence of a formal, sedate environment peculiar to the ceremonies, the dynamic but reserved power of the Ottoman state, and a high level of order. This approach means that the illustrations have the characteristic of being a document depicting the Ottoman state, and offer detailed visual material for those interested in Ottoman culture, economy, architecture, and institutional history.

Two Masters Glorifying Ottoman Pictorial Art: Nakkaş Osman and Şehnameci Seyyid Lokman

The production of books with miniatures by the imperial nakkaşhane stagnated between 1558 and 1569. Şehnameci Ârifî passed away in 1561-1562, and was replaced by Eflatun, the bookkeeper of the poet Elkâs Mîrza of Şirvan. The illustrated şehnâme that he wrote is no longer extant today. Moreover, the following factors likely hindered the creation of new designs to a certain extent: the death of the book lover Rüstem Pasha in 1561, the execution of Prince Bayezid, the huge flood in Istanbul, the defeat in Malta, and the death of Sultan Süleyman I in 1566. The new sultan Selim II and the grand vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha did not embark upon any wars, but they enabled the initiation of new and grand designs in art. The great architect Mimar Sinan began the construction of the mosque that would bear the name of the new sultan in Edirne (1568). Meanwhile, Seyyid Lokman of Urmia was appointed as chronicler (1569). The court calligrapher Ahmed Feridun Bey (d. 1583), who had been working in the service of Sokullu Mehmed Pasha since 1553, had a role in Seyyid Lokman’s appointment. Ahmed Feridun Bey wrote the Gazânâme entitled Nüzhetü’(l-esrâri’)l-ahbâr der Sefer-i Sigetvar (News from the Szigetvár Expedition) for Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha. The work recounts the history of the expedition that Seyyid Lokman witnessed in person: the conquest of the Hungarian Szigetvár Castle by Sultan Süleyman together with Sokullu Mehmed Pasha in 1566; the death of the sultan there; the accession of the new sultan Selim II to the throne; and the events of 1568. This work, decorated by twenty miniatures, was completed on 13 Rajab 976 (January 1, 1569).60 The miniatures of this work portraying the events were, in a similar vein to some of the depictions of Süleymânnâme, pioneering examples of Turkish pictorial art. They depict figures that are plain, solemn, and serious, as if in a formal ceremony, and provide a magnificent visual realism in contrast to an oral one. They also emphasize the cultural-identity differences and the physiognomic features of the people they depict. Thus, the miniaturist had a chance to introduce attempts at official Ottoman dynasty portrait drawing, which would actually begin ten years later. The miniaturist of the work was someone who belonged to the world of Sokullu Mehmed Pasha and the author Ahmet Feridun Bey, and must have witnessed the Szigetvár expedition; thus, we can conclude that this was Nakkaş Osman.61

Seyyid Lokman and Nakkaş Osman were occupied with the preparation of their new book projects between 1569 and 1579. Since it was primarily the portraits of sultans that were needed for the preparation of illustrated history books, priority was given to this task. The first product of this work, Şemâilnâme (Saga of Appearance), appeared in 1579. The book, whose texts were penned by Seyyid Lokman, recounts the brief biography of the first twelve Ottoman sultans and their physiognomic features, and a picture drawn by Nakkaş Osman is placed within the lines written for each sultan; the sultan is seen in profile in the picture, and is depicted kneeling down or sitting cross-legged, holding a handkerchief in one hand and a book or flower in the other. The sultan portrait series design by Nakkaş Osman became an example to his contemporaries and future Turkish painters; numerous copies of this book were produced the year it was prepared and in subsequent years.62

7- Harem, mansions, and outer yard (Şehinşahname, 1581) (Istanbul University Library, no. F. 1404, fol. 118a)

8- A map of Istanbul (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H., no. 1523, fol. 158b-159a)

This productive and magnificent period in Turkish miniature art coincided with the reign of Murad III (1574–1595). Without a doubt, the personality and milieu of the sultan played an important role in the advancement of book illustration. The Dîvân, produced in 1588, was embellished with illuminations and bound by the palace jeweler Bosnalı Mehmed with a cover decorated with precious stones. The book, which is now housed in the treasury of Topkapı Palace, was written by Sultan Murad, who wrote religious and Sufi poems, under the penname of Murâdî.63 The fact that Zeyrek Agha, one of the Enderun aghas of the palace, played a role in preparation of this work can be understood from the inscription on the binding. The imperial nakkaşhane experienced unprecedented activity during this period. The sultan, as well as the Darüssaade agha Mehmed Agha and the Bâbüssaâde agha Gazanfer Agha, was closely interested in the miniaturists and the authors who prepared the illustrated books. The şehnâmes of Ottoman sultans, written in verse in Persian in the nastaleeq style of calligraphy, were the most important of these illustrated works. The şehnâmes of the Ottoman sultans, which apparently had some set standards for their writing and illustration, were written between 1579 and 1597 by Seyyid Lokman and illustrated by Nakkaş Osman and his assistants and apprentices. When completed, these glorious works were entitled as Târîh-i Sultân Süleymân (History of Sultan Süleyman),64 Şehnâme-i Selîm Hân (Chronicle of Selîm Hân),65 and Şehinşâhnâme or Şehnâme-i Sultan Murâd66 (Chronicle of Sultan Murâd).

9- The stonemasons carrying a model of Süleymaniye Mosque in front of İbrahim Paşa Palace in Horse Square (<em>Surname</em>, circa 1587) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H., no. 1344, fol. 190b-191a)

Another group of works prepared by the same team consists of books written in Turkish, of a large dimension; these books are entitled Hünernâme.67 These works visually transmitted the grandeur of the Ottoman army, the ostentation of the imperial ceremonies, and the skills and sense of justice of the sultans, and thereby documented them. They conveyed this sense of grandeur not just with their illustrations, but also by means of their bindings, illuminations, calligraphy, and the books themselves. Three illustrated copies of an Islamic history that includes the history of prophets were prepared. One of these copies, entitled Zübdetü’t-tevârîh (Essence of History), was presented to Murad III in 991 (1583). It is a majestic work,68 measuring 64.7 x 41.5 cm, with forty full-page illustrations created by thirteen miniaturists, including Nakkaş Osman and his apprentices.69

Istanbul in the Pictures of Nakkaş Osman

The best-documented examples of Istanbul’s architectural history have reached us today through miniatures: first, those designed by Matrakçı Nasûh, and then those created by Nakkaş Osman. Osman’s works are extremely important in terms of their value as a historical source. Istanbul’s great monuments are immortalized through visualizations of their features that go beyond mere verbal expressions. These include portrayals of the Hagia Sophia70 (Picture 6) and Süleymaniye mosques,71 whose details cannot be expressed in written sources covering historical events, of water sources depicted in landscapes that function as a map (Picture 7),72 of the courtyards and buildings of Topkapı Palace (Picture 8),73 and of the Harem and the mansion constructed by Sinan within the Harem and its surroundings (Picture 9).74 Moreover, two Istanbul landscapes, designed in a map-like style and shaded in light pink by Nakkaş Osman, are worth seeing. While one of these is depicted on double pages looking from the direction of the Marmara Sea (Picture 10),75 the other is depicted on a single page looking from the direction of Galata; the comet that was seen in the sky over Istanbul in 1579 has also been included.76

A Circumcision Festival in Istanbul: Sûrnâme-i Hümâyûn

10- Madrasa of Gazanfer Ağa. Engraved by Nakşi (<em>Divan-ı Nadiri</em>, circa 1605) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H., no. 889, fol. 22a)

A circumcision festival was planned for Mehmed, the son of Murad III, in Istanbul’s Hippodrome in May 1582. This festival was a means to reinforce friendly relationships and to demonstrate the power of the empire at a time when intense warfare was ongoing with the Safavids. Representatives of Eastern and Western countries attended the festival as the sultan’s guests and they offered illuminated books with miniatures as gifts, together with bundles of cloth, carpets, porcelain bowls, and silver goods, to the sultan and the prince. The festivities lasted for fifty-two days and nights and greatly impressed the guests, particularly the Western ones. They would later write of this fairytale-like festivity in their memoirs. The sultan and his son watched the festivities from İbrahim Paşa Palace, which faces the Hippodrome; the foreigners invited to the festival and senior state officials watched them from the three-storied viewing platform built specifically for this ceremony. In the festival, every trade guild of Istanbul passed by with mobile workbenches, demonstrating how they performed their crafts. Nahıls (large cones) symbolizing power and fertility—made of wax, measuring more than thirty meters, and decorated with flowers, animals, and fruits—were carried to the square. Fireworks were set off during the night. Sports and war games, such as riding, shooting, and wrestling, were performed. Dancer boys, musicians, puppeteers, and illusionists carried out performances, and feasts were offered to the people watching the festivity. The various phases of this festivity were recorded in the Sûrnâme-i Hümâyun, and the illustration of this work was left to Nakkaş Osman.77 By 1587, Nakkaş Osman, working together with his assistants, had depicted the festivity’s phases in 250 pictures on facing pages (Picture 11). This work, prepared under the supervision of Zeyrek Agha and Mehmed Agha, is another precious book produced in the palace of Istanbul, documenting the architecture of the İbrahim Paşa Palace in the Hippodrome, the skills of Istanbul tradesmen, and the entertainment life of the city.78

Echoes of War: Gazanames (War Sagas)

Cooperation between Seyyid Lokman (d. 1610) and Nakkaş Osman resulted in intense artistic activity in the imperial nakkaşhane. At this time, in 1578, the war in the east between the Safavids and the Ottomans, one that would last for thirty-four years, had begun. While hundreds of people from both sides lost their lives, the wars directed by commanders in the Caucasus continued. In the meantime, envoy delegations paid mutual visits, leading to a cultural exchange. Safavid messengers brought hundreds of rare books to the Istanbul palace as gifts. The sefer kâtips (campaign clerks) kept a diary and transferred this material to the şehnameci Lokman. They also wrote gazânâme works, mostly in verse, glorifying the commanders they were serving; these books were also visualized, illuminated, and bound by the master artists of the Istanbul palace. Works of this type include the Nusretnâme (Saga of Victories),79 Şecâatnâme (Saga of Bravery),80 Fetihnâme-i Gence (Conquest of Gence),81 and Târîh-i Feth-i Yemen82 (History of the Conquest of Yemen).83

Illustrated History of the Prophet: Siyer-i Nebî (the Prophet’s Life)

Towards 1595, the palace administration asked the imperial nakkaşhane to illustrate the history of the early Islamic period and the life of Prophet Muhammad. The work most suitable for this end was the Siyer-i Nebî, compiled by Darîr of Erzurum (d. 1394), written in Turkish in Cairo and presented to Berkuk, the sultan of Mamluks, by the author in 1388. A large staff of illustrators was assigned to prepare the work. The illustration of such works was not carried out merely out of religious considerations. As emphasized in this work, the Prophet Muhammad was, in addition to being a prophet, a statesman and a heroic soldier. The sultan and his associates must have regarded this as a chronicle, as a şehinşâhnâme of the prophet of Islam. Unfortunately, Sultan Murad was in the last years of his life. When he passed away in January 1595, the illustrated Siyer-i Nebî had not yet been completed. It was the new sultan, Sultan Mehmed III (r. 1595–1603), who had this work completed. It was one of the last masterpieces of a peak period in Ottoman book art. The Siyer-i Nebî was prepared as six volumes with 814 depictions; however, only five volumes remain today.84 In it, the religious identity of Prophet Muhammad is indicated by a halo surrounding his head and a veil covering his face, and its portrayals of wars, military campaigns, and assembly scenes are reminiscent of those in illustrated Ottoman histories. While this may be attributed to the fact that the painters were accustomed to drawing mostly historical subjects, it may also be that the entire work was considered to be a prophetic history. The stylistic features of the work suggest that five or six miniaturists drew the pictures and Nakkaş Osman and Nakkaş Hasan shared the responsibility for the project.85

Nakkaş Hasan and Chronicler Ta‘lîkîzade: The End of the Sixteenth Century and Beginning of the Seventeenth Century

Turkish miniature art, enriched by the cooperation between Nakkaş Osman and şehnameci Seyyid Lokman, continued during this period with the collaboration of Nakkaş Hasan and the şehnameci Ta‘lîkîzade. Ta‘lîkîzade was appointed to the post of şehnameci in 1596–1597 when Seyyid Lokman left the post. The Şemâilnâme-i Âl-i Osmân,86 Şehnâme-i Hümâyûn,87 and Eğri Fetihnâmesi88 were written by Ta‘lîkîzade between 1590 and 1600 and illustrated by Nakkaş Hasan. Ta‘lîkîzade praises Nakkaş Hasan on the last page of the Eğri Fetihnâmesi and adds an illustration demonstrating Hasan and the working environment of those who prepared the work (himself, Ta‘lîkîzade, and the calligrapher).89 We know that Nakkaş Hasan was trained in Enderun at the New Palace. He illustrated not only historical works, but also literary works that were full of fine adventures. These were written in Turkish or translated into Turkish in accordance with the tastes of palace society.90 He also documented the events he witnessed as if he were taking a picture. Furthermore, having graduated from Enderun, he was close to the Bâbüssaâde agha Gazanfer Agha (d. 1602) and to Sadeddin (d. 1599), the tutor of the sultan. He made portraits of these two men, as well as of Zülfikâr Han, who was a Safavid envoy in Istanbul.

11- Okmeydanı. Engraved by Levni (<em>Surname-i Vehbi</em>, 1727) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, A., no. 3593, fol. 10b-11a)

Illustrated Books Presented to Sultan Ahmed I

During the era of Ahmed I (r. 1603–1617), who acceded to the throne at the age of fourteen, two statesmen are considered to have played an important role in enlivening the art world. One of them was the Darüssaade agha Mustafa Agha,91 who supervised the construction of the Sultan Ahmed I mosque. The second individual was Kalender Pasha, who was the bina emini (building controller) of the Ahmet I Mosque, later becoming the kubbe veziri (a vizier appointed to the council of state). Kalender, a master of book restoration, halkâr, and kâğıt oyma (paper engraving), designed muraqqas92 and a Fâlnâme93 (Book of Omens).94 Nakkaş Hasan was also active in the arts. He decorated a large tuğra (seal) for the young sultan with illumination (tezhip). One of his miniatures in Kalender’s Fâlnâme depicts Adam and Eve. The same work contains a painting of a Chinese monk by Nakşî Bey, who had a good reputation within the palace society of Istanbul during the first half of the seventeenth century.95 Nakşî Bey also drew a portrait of the young Sultan Ahmed on a horse during a ceremony in Edirne in 1604.96

12- A demonstration in the Golden Horn in front of Aynalıkavak Mansion. Engraved by Levni (<em>Surname-i Vehbi</em>, 1727) (Topkapı Palace Museum Library, A.,no. 3593, fol. 92b-93a)

Istanbul Monuments Depicted by Nakşî Bey

The final lines of Tercüme-i Şakâik-i Nu‘mâniyye (Ottoman Scholars)—a biography of scholars, poets, and Sufis that is believed to have been prepared around 1620 to be presented to Sultan Osman II (r. 1618–1622)—provides information about the work of Nakşî.97 The book contains portraits of the people mentioned in the work. Ahmed Çelebi, who wrote the epilogue to the work, states that it was Nakşî who drew the portraits, and provides information about Nakşî’s style. In this section of the work, Nakşî included portraits of himself, the vizier, and the translator.

Nadirî Mehmed Efendi (d. 1627) was a distinguished bureaucrat, poet, and scholar who served as a teacher, qadi, and kazasker (chief military judge). In distinction to the works of other poets of the Ottoman palace, his Dîvân (ca. 1605) was very meticulously illustrated, illuminated, and bound.98 In addition to the nine miniatures drawn by Nakşî, miniatures are included of the prominent people in the Ottoman state whom Nadirî praises in the work and who were his contemporaries; also included are portraits of the two aghas to whom the work was dedicated, that is, the Bâbüssaâde agha Gazanfer Agha and Mirahur Ali Agha (d. 1603?).99 Gazanfer Agha had commissioned the madrasa next to the Bozdoğan aqueducts in Istanbul in 1596, and Nadirî served as its first professor. Nakşî’s depictions are included in sections of the Dîvân dealing with Gazanfer and his madrasa, and include portrayals of the aqueduct, the madrasa, Nadirî lecturing in the madrasa, Nadirî’s students, and Gazanfer Agha approaching the madrasa (Picture 12).100 Nakşî left behind unique documents depicting the Bâb-ı Hümayun of Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Hagia Irini Church,101 a palace pavilion,102 and the magnificent mansion103 of the sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Efendi (d. 1606). Among the works illustrated by Nakşî are also Turkish translations of Şehnâme-i Nâdirî,104 which recounts the history of the Khotyn campaign, which was attended by Sultan Osman II in person, and the şehnâme written by the renowned poet Firdevsî (d. 1020).105

The participation of Sultan Murad IV (r. 1623–1640) in the Bagdad campaign in the middle of the seventeenth century resulted in the writing of the Şehinşâhnâme-i Murâdî; this work, written in verse, recounts this expedition and other historical incidents of the era. However, no illustrated copy of the work is known to exist. Nevertheless, portraits depicting Murad IV on the throne or on a horse with his unique helmet and attire survive to this day.106

The fact that the Ottoman sultans that patronized book art began living in the Edirne palace after the second half of the seventeenth century allowed a group of artists to continue working there. However, since the palace was destroyed and disappeared in the nineteenth century, the products of the Edirne imperial nakkaşhane from this period likely no longer exist today.

During the second half of the seventeenth century, diplomatic and commercial relationships with Europe increased. These relationships began to influence the Ottoman palace environment and the cultural life of Turkish society. Western painters who came to Istanbul with embassy committees made pictures of prominent palace members as well as different segments of Ottoman society; as a result, Europeans became more familiar with Turks and Turkish culture. This coincided with a considerable decline in palace support for the preparation of illustrated books by the end of the seventeenth century due to the significant burden it posed to the imperial treasury. As a result, miniaturist painters started to prepare albums to be sold to Western travelers and diplomatic circles. These albums included portraits of leading people from the palace and of different segments of the Ottoman society, portraying them in different poses and engaged in a variety of tasks. A painter called Hüseyin prepared the medallion portraits of the Ottoman sultans up to Mehmed IV (1647–1687);107 other anonymous painters prepared illustrations for books that used perspective and familiar shading techniques in nature scenes.108

Consolidation of Western Influences and Renewal in Miniature Art: The Eighteenth Century

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, as the West began to influence Ottoman society more and more, and as the Ottoman’s grew closer to the Europeans, the art of painting also took on new life. The cultural activities of the grand vizier Damad İbrahim Pasha (d. 1730) and the Darüssaade agha Beşir Agha (d. 1746), who were assigned to these posts in the same year (1717), must have played a role in this dynamism of miniature art. During the period 1717–1730, later referred to as the “Tulip Era,” the construction of mansions, coastal palaces, and gardens changed the appearance of Istanbul shorelines, libraries were established, and poetry and music were in great demand. Sultan Ahmed III (r. 1703–1730), who as a young a prince took calligraphy lessons from the calligrapher Hafız Osman, created jali, mahaqqaq, and thuluth verses, as well as producing tuğras. The liveliness of the years 1717 to 1730 was visualized in the drawings of the painter and poet Levnî Abdülcelil Çelebi (d. 1732?). The first of these was the Silsilenâme (ca. 1710–1720), which contained portraits of the Ottoman sultans up until Sultan Ahmed III.109 The painter depicted the sultans in accordance with the tradition that had been established since Nakkaş Osman; that is, he portrayed the sultans sitting cross-legged with bent knees in embellished clothing, but made them exaggeratedly fat.110 Yet Ahmed III, the sultan of the era, was depicted sitting on the throne with his prince next to him. Levnî also painted fashionably dressed elegant men and women, individually or as a group, and also drew portraits of female musicians around 1720.111

A circumcision festival was organized for the four sons of Sultan Ahmed III in 1720. The festival festivities lasted for fifteen days and nights in the districts of Okmeydanı and the Golden Horn and the poet Vehbî (d. 1736) recorded the story of the festivity in his Sûrnâme-i Vehbî between 1720 and 1727. Two copies of this work, which includes miniatures, were prepared. Hüseyin Şâkir began to make one of these copies in ta’leeq calligraphy in 1132 (1720), finishing it five years later in 1725. In 1727, Levnî illustrated this work with 137 pictures and presented it to the sultan.112 The second copy was made in 1724 in naskh calligraphy by Suyolcuzade Mehmed Necib; Nakkaş İbrahim included 140 pictures to complement the text of this work, which was probably presented to Grand Vizier İbrahim Pasha in 1729.113 The painters applied the Western approach to traditional book illustrations by using color tones and perspective when creating the details of nature and figures; they also reflected cultural differences in facial features.

Istanbul in the Depictions of Nakkaş Levnî and Nakkaş İbrahim

The unique documents created by Levnî and İbrahim in their Sûrnâmes brought to light the world of Istanbul’s entertainment: parades of craftsmen passing by the people and the guests; performances by illusionists, dancers, and acrobats; nighttime light-work entertainments; festival banquets; gifts presented at the festivals; a cart moving on a rope over the Golden Horn; a seven-headed dragon blowing flames; hand-made palm trees and gardens made of confectionary. They also covered two places where the ceremonies took place—namely, Okmeydanı and the nearby Atıcılar Tekkesi (Picture 13) and the Aynalıkavak (Picture 14) Pavilion on the Golden Horn. The Arslanhane building, which was one of the places where the imperial miniaturists worked, is represented in this work as well. Also represented are the Arz (reception) Chamber, the library of Ahmet III, the İftariye Köşkü (pavilion for breaking the Ramadan fast), and the pool in front of it are all parts of Topkapı Palace documented in the work.114 Another feature of the Sûrnâme pictures is the karaağas (black aghas), who had never previously been depicted in large numbers around the sultan or his family in Turkish miniatures. This suggests that the karaağas, particularly the Darüssaade agha Beşir Agha, played an important role in the organization of this ceremony.115

Nev‘îzade Atâyî’s (d. 1636) Hamse, which was lauded by the poet of the era Nedim, describes the pleasure and dissolution of society during the Tulip Era. The demand for an illustrated version of this work appeared among the Ottoman elite. In the resulting work, the Bosphorus and Istanbul’s fortresses, gardens, houses, and healing fountains were transformed into visual representations, alongside racy stories and the free-and-easy, sometimes even immoral, behavior described by Atâyî. The pictures within the copy, dated 1141 (1728), are attributed to Nakkaş İbrahim.116 The artist sincerely and realistically reflects all segments of Ottoman society in the first half of the eighteenth century, as well as the informal state of daily life and erotic matters. The artist uses perspective in natural details and figures, and uses color tones and reflects cultural differences in the features of the people’s faces.117

Like his colleague Levnî, Abdullah Buharî, a famous miniaturist in the palace of Mahmud I (r. 1730–1754) as well as a flower painter, made portraits of women dressed in eighteenth-century fabrics, in keeping with the fashion of the era.118 Abdullah Buharî applied the soft-stroke color tones he used for natural details and the perspective he used for architectural elements to his flower paintings and to the landscape compositions that appeared on book covers. These were manuscript trials of the landscape paintings that would later be hung on mansion walls and become fashionable.119 Moreover, rich examples of the landscapes that offered a background for figures can be found in the pictures of the work entitled Hûbânnâme ve Zenânnâme. This work was prepared at the end of the eighteenth century and the pictures were similar to watercolors.120 A picture portraying women and men from different Western countries and Istanbul also depicts women’s rural entertainment in Kâğıthane, Istanbul. This picture documents Sadabad pavilions, Istanbul structures that no longer exist, in the background of the landscape (Picture 15).121

The End of Miniature Art: The Changing Tastes of the Nineteenth Century

Today, we still have copies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Qur’anic codices and prayer books written by master calligraphers, embellished with meticulous tezhip, and covered with masterful bindings, and of contemporary poetry books embellished with landscapes.122 This suggests that the activity of manuscript preparation continued to be sustained with the patronage of the palace administration during this period.123 Although limited in number, there are also illustrated history books dating from this period. Yet in contrast to earlier such works, instead of the detailed and spectacular depictions of the events that occurred in the era of each sultan, history books from this period included solely the portraits of Ottoman sultans.124 It is no longer possible to talk about an organized nakkaşhane in this period. Two travelogues125 that include merely watercolor landscape pictures and the sultan portrait albums illustrate the presence of books with miniatures in Istanbul, prepared in accordance with personal interests.


Bağcı, Serpil, “Representing Vassāl Kalender’s Works: The Preface of Three Ottoman Albums,” Muqarnas, vol. 30 (2013), pp. 255-313.

Çağman, Filiz, “Nakkaş Osman in Sixteenth Century Documents and Literature,” Art Turc/Turkish Art. 10th International Congress of Turkish Art/10e Congrès international d’art Turc, Genève-Geneva, 17-23 Septembre 1995, Actes/Proceedings, ed. F. Déroche, Genève: Fondation Max van Berchem, 1999, pp. 197-206.

Fetvacı, Emine, “The Production of The Şehnâme-i Selim Hân,” Muqarnas, 2009, vol. 26, pp. 263-315.

Tanındı, Zeren, “Manuscript Production in the Ottoman Palace Workshop,” Manuscripts of the Middle East, 1990-91, vol. 5, pp. 67-98.

Yoltar, Ayşin, The Role of Illustrated Manuscripts in Ottoman Luxury Book Production: 1413-1520” (PhD thesis), New York University, 2002.


1 For early period examples of Ottoman pictorial art, see: Serpil Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, Ankara: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Yayınları, 2012, pp. 21-33.

2 OBL, Quseley, no. 134.

3 TSMK, R., no. 989.

4 VML, Cod. Or. XC 57.

5 TSMK, R., no. 862.

6 TSMK, H., no. 781.

7 For this work and a new interpretation of the period, see: Gülru Necipoğlu, “Visual Cosmopolitanism and Creative Translation: Artistic Conversations with Renaissance Italy in Mehmed II’s Constantinople,” Muqarnas, 2012, vol. 29, pp. 1-48.

8 Julian Raby, “Öncü Girişimler (1450-1550): Oyun Başlıyor,” Padişahın Portresi: Tesâvir-i Al-i Osman, ed. Selmin Kangal, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2000, pp. 64-91.

9 OAM.

10 OAM.

11 LNG, no. 3099.

12 Mustafa Âlî, Menâkıb-ı Hünerverân, ed. İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal İnal, Istanbul: Türk Tarih Encümeni, 1926, p. 68. Sinan Bey’s gravestone is located in the Bursa Museum. This stone was brought from the Bursa Deveciler cemetery, whose land had been expropriated.

13 TSMK, H., no. 2153, f. 145a.

14 TSMK, H., no. 2153, f. 10a. See. Raby, “Öncü Girişimler,” p. 82.

15 See Padişahın Portresi: Tesâvir-i Al-i Osman, edited by Selmin Kangal, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2000.

16 BPOWM, no. 51.34; BİK, Hüseyin Çelebi. no. 763.

17 UUL, no. Vet. 86; NMET, no. 69.27; TSMK, H., no. 686.

18 LBL, Or. no. 7742.

19 TSMK, A., no. 3563.

20 TSMK, H., no. 1123.

21 Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım, “Following the Path of a Nakkash from the Akkoyunlu to the Ottoman Court,” Pearls from Water Rubies from Stone: Studies in Islamic Art in Honor of Priscilla Soucek, ed. L. Kamaroff, Zürich Museum Rietberg: 2006, vol. 1-2, pp. 147-172.

22 DCBL, T. no. 406.

23 Filiz Çağman, “Saray Nakkaşhanesinin Yeri Üzerine Düşünceler,” Sanat Tarihinde Doğudan Batıya. Ünsal Yücel Anısına Sempozyum Bildirileri, Istanbul: Sandoz Yayınları, 1989, pp. 35-46.

24 Evliya Çelebi, Günümüz Türkçesiyle Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi: İstanbul, prepared by S. Ali Kahraman and Yücel Dağlı, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2006, vol. 1/2, pp. 612-613, 615.

25 TSMK, E.H., no. 1512.

26 Gilded borders placed around the text in a book.

27 İU Lib., no. F. 1330.

28 TSMK, H., no. 1597-1598.

29 TSMK, H., no. 802. For works from this period, see: Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 53-65.

30 TSMK, R., no., 1272.

31 DSLB, E., no. 391.

32 Istanbul University Library, no. T. 5964.

33 TSMK, H., no. 1608.

34 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 73-79.

35 Walter Denny, “A Sixteenth Century Architecture Plan of Istanbul,” Ars Orientalis, 1970, issue 8, pp. 49-63.

36 Zeren Tanındı,“Topkapı Sarayı’nın Ağaları ve Kitaplar,” Uludağ Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 2002, vol. 3, issue 3, pp. 41-56; Zeren Tanındı, “Bibliophile Aghas (Eunuchs) at Topkapı Saray,” Muqarnas, 2004, vol. 21, pp. 333-343. For the latest publications about the role of the imperial aghas in book arts, see: Tülün Değirmenci, İktidar Oyunları ve Resimli Kitaplar: II. Osman Devrinde Değişen Güç Simgeleri, Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2012; Emine Fetvacı, Sarayın İmgeleri. Osmanlı Sarayının Gözüyle Resimli Tarih, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2013.

37 TSMK, HS., no. 5.

38 In a private collection in Italy; TSMK, H., no. 1517.

39 Esin Atıl, Süleymanname: The Illustrated History of Süleyman the Magnificent, Washington and New York: National Galllery of Art, 1986; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 96-109.

40 Ârifî, Süleymânnâme, TSMK, H., no. 1517.

41 Ârifî, Süleymânnâme, f. 360a.

42 Ârifî, Süleymânnâme, f. 200a.

43 Ârifî, Süleymânnâme, f. 477b.

44 Ârifî, Süleymânnâme, f. 412a, 576a.

45 LACMA, no. 85.237.20.

46 TSMK, H., no. 2134, f. 9a-b.

47 CAMSM, no. 85.214.

48 TSMK, H., no. 2134, f. 8a-b.

49 TSMK, H., no. 2134, f. 3a-b.

50 Günseli Renda, “Sanatta Etkileşim,” Osmanlı Uygarlığı, ed. Halil İnalcık and Günseli Renda, Istanbul: Kültür Bakanlığı, 2003, vol. 2, p. 1100; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 83-89.

51 Istanbul Library, no. F. 1426.

52 TSMK, H., no. 2154, f. 2a.

53 Stylized floral motifs and clouds with a swirled effect of Chinese origin.

54 NMET, no. 57.51.26.

55 WFGA, no. 37.7.

56 Banu Mahir, “Saray Nakkaşhanesinin Ünlü Ressamı Şah Kulu ve Eserleri,” Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi: Yıllık 1, 1986, pp. 113-130.

57 VÖNB, cod. mixt., no. 313.

58 Banu Mahir, “XVI. Yüzyıl Osmanlı Nakkaşhanesinde Murakka Yapımcılığı,” Uluslararası Sanat Tarihi Sempozyumu, Prof. Dr. Gönül Öney’e Armağan, 10-13 Ekim 2001: Bildiriler, İzmir: Ege Uni. Edebiyat Fak. Sanat Tarihi Bölümü, 2002, pp. 401-417.

59 Zeren Tanındı, “Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kütüphanesi’nde Veli Can İmzalı Resimler,” JTS, 1991, vol. 2, issue 15, pp. 287-313.

60 TSMK, H., no. 1339.

61 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 111-115; Fetvacı, Sarayın İmgeleri, pp. 149-169.

62 Filiz Çağman, “İstanbul Sarayı’nın Yorumu: Üstad Osman ve Dizisi,” Padişahın Portresi: Tesavir-i Âli Osman, ed. Selmin Kangal, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2000, p. 164-187.

63 TSM, H., no. 2/2107.

64 DCBL, no. T. 413.

65 TSMK, A., no. 3595.

66 Istanbul University Library, no. F. 1404, f. 1; TSMK, B., no. 200, f. 2.

67 TSMK, H., no. 1523, H., no. 1524; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 116-129; Fetvacı, Sarayın İmgeleri, pp. 177-183.

68 TİEM, no. 1973.

69 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 131-140; Fetvacı, Sarayın İmgeleri, 213-226.

70 TSMK, A., no. 3595, f. 156a.

71 DCBL, no. T. 413, f. 119a.

72 DCBL, no. T. 413, f. 22b-23a.

73 TSMK, H., no. 1523, f. 15b, 18b-19a, 231b-232a.

74 Istanbul University Library, no. F. 1404, f. 118a.

75 TSMK, H., no. 1523, ff. 158b-159a.

76 Istanbul University Library, no. F. 1404, f. 58a. For the Istanbul images made by Nakkaş Osman, see: Metin And, Osmanlı Tasvir Sanatları 1: Minyatür, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2002, pp. 232-233, 239, 242, 246-249, 330-332, 334, 338, 357.

77 TSMK, H., no. 1344.

78 Nurhan Atasoy, 1582 Surname-i Hümayun - Düğün Kitabı, Istanbul: Koçbank, 1997; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 140-151; Fetvacı, Sarayın İmgeleri, pp. 226-237.

79 TSMK, H., no. 1365.

80 Istanbul University Library, no. T. 6043.

81 TSMK, R., no. 1296.

82 Istanbul University Library, no. T. 6045.

83 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 164-176.

84 TSMK, H., no. 1221, 1222, 1223; NYPL, no. 157; DCBL, no. T. 419.

85 Zeren Tanındı, Siyer-i Nebî: İslam Tasvir Sanatında Hz. Muhammed’in Hayatı, Istanbul: Hürriyet Vakfı, 1984.

86 TSMK, A., no. 3592.

87 TİEM, no. 1965.

88 TSMK, H., no. 1609.

89 TSMK, H., no. 1609, f. 74a.

90 Istanbul University Library, no. T. 1975, 9303; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 176-183.

91 Değirmenci, İktidar Oyunları, pp. 59-83.

92 TSMK, B., no. 408; TSMK, H., no. 2171.

93 TSMK, H., no. 1703.

94 Farhad Massumeh and Serpil Bağcı, Falnama: The Book of Omens, Washington: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Smithsonian Institution, 2009, pp. 68-74.

95 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 192-195, 228-232.

96 TSMK, H., no. 889, f. 10a. See: Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, picture 175.

97 TSMK, H., no. 1263. See. Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 210-211; Değirmenci, İktidar Oyunları, pp. 281-309.

98 TSMK, H., no. 889. See: Zeren Tanındı, “Transformation of Words to Images: Portraits of Ottoman Courtiers in the ‘Diwâns’ of Bâkî and Nâdirî,” Anthropology and Aesthetics, 2003, vol. 43, pp. 131-145; Değirmenci, İktidar Oyunları, pp. 153-164.

99 For Gazanfer Agha’s patronage of art, see: Tanındı, “Topkapı Sarayı’nın Ağaları ve Kitaplar,” pp. 47-50; Fetvacı, Saray’ın İmgeleri, pp. 297-328. For Gazanfer Agha and Ali Agha, see: Değirmenci, İktidar Oyunları, pp. 149-154, 164-168.

100 TSMK, H., no. 889, f. 22a.

101 TSMK, H., no. 889, f. 4a.

102 TSMK, H., no. 889, f. 8b.

103 TSMK, H., no. 889, f. 18b.

104 TSMK, H., no. 1124.

105 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 213-220; Değirmenci, İktidar Oyunları, pp. 87-134.

106 TSMK, H., no. 2134/1. Banu Mahir, “Portrenin Yeni Bağlamı,” Padişahın Portresi: Tesavir-i Âli Osman, ed. Selmin Kangal, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2000, p. 330; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 222-223.

107 Archive of Prime Ministry General Directorate of Foundations, Presidency of Culture and Registration Department, K. no. 4. 181; VÖNB, A.F., no. 50, 17.

108 Mahir, “Portrenin Yeni Bağlamı,” pp. 239-241.

109 TSMK, A., no. 3109.

110 Gül İrepoğlu, “Yenilik ve Değişim,” Padişahın Portresi: Tesavir-i Âli Osman, ed. Selmin Kangal, Istanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2000, pp. 378-387.

111 TSMK, H., no. 2164. See: Gül İrepoğlu, Levnî: Nakış, Şiir ve Renk, Istanbul: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1999, pp. 168-203.

112 TSMK, A., no. 3593. See: İrepoğlu, Levnî, pp. 111-167; Esin Atıl, Levni and the Surname: The Story of an Eighteenth Century Ottoman Festival, Istanbul: Koçbank, 1999; Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 264-268.

113 TSMK, Ahmed, no. 3594. Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 268-269.

114 İrepoğlu, Levnî, p. 167.

115 Tanındı, “Topkapı Sarayı’nın Ağaları ve Kitaplar,” pp. 53-55.

116 TSMK, R., no. 816.

117 Bağcı et al, Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 268-271.

118 TSMK, H., no. 2143 f. 10a.

119 TSMK, E.H., no. 1380. See: Bağcı et al, Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 273-275.

120 Istanbul University Library, no. T. 5502; LBL, no. Or. 7094.

121 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 276-278.

122 TSMK, H., no. 912.

123 Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, pp. 286-288, 298.

124 BSB, no. Or. 1163; KMM, T. 30.

125 Millet Library, Ali Emîrî, no. 822; Istanbul University Library, no. T. 4199.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.