Harmony of Line and Color

Illuminated manuscripts, documents, and calligraphy in the Sadberk Hanim Museum collection.

Koran (1271 (1854-55)) by Copied by Hüseyin en-Nazif, a pupil of Mustafa MucibSadberk Hanım Museum

The tradition of transforming books into works of art goes back to the eighth and ninth centuries. The text is written by a master calligrapher and illustrated by a master painter, the pages are designed and decorated in many colours by a skilled illuminator and finally the pages are bound in an ornamented cover by a master binder.

Koran (1265 (1848-49)) by Copied by es-Seyyid Abdullah ez-Zühdi et-TemimiSadberk Hanım Museum

Surviving examples demonstrate that the first artistically produced books in the Islamic world were Korans. Soon after Korans began to be produced in the form books rather than scrolls, the pages began to be illuminated with painted decoration.

One of those who contributed to the spread of the words of God was Ali, the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, who created the script style known as Kufic and applied it in its most beautiful form. Ali was also the first person to illuminate the words of God and so open the way for illumination as a profession.

Motivated by this belief, for centuries patrons of the arts supported the writing of the Koran's text by calligraphers, the decoration of its pages by skilled illuminators and the binding of its pages by master binders in covers usually made of leather and sometimes adorned with gold or silver plaques mounted with precious stones.

Koran (1201 (1786-87)) by Copied by Seyyid Ahmed b. AbdurrahmanSadberk Hanım Museum

Delâ’ilü’l-Hayrât (Circa 1730) by Copied by Mehmed b. Hüseyin, who studied under Hüseyin b. Ramazan.Sadberk Hanım Museum

From the late seventeenth century onwards we begin to see a demand for illuminated manuscripts containing prayers believed to protect one from misfortune, together with information about the times when prayers should be recited; sometimes also surahs, Koranic verses, hadiths and talismanic diagrams; pictures of Mecca and the Ka'ba Court, the Mosque of the Prophet and Tomb of the Prophet in Medina, and Muhammad's personal possessions; and illuminated hilyes or descriptions of the physical characteristics of Muhammad and his companions.

Koran (Second half of 16th century)Sadberk Hanım Museum

Delâ’ilü’l-Hayrât (AH 1170 (1756-57)) by Copied by Derviş Ali TalibzadeSadberk Hanım Museum

The most widely known work in the category that could be classified as prayer anthologies is the Arabic Dela'ilü'l-Hayrat, meaning "guide to the auspicious".

Hilye-i Şerif (Circa 1725) by UnknownSadberk Hanım Museum

Hilye-i Şerif (Circa 1670) by Calligraphy by Hafız OsmanSadberk Hanım Museum

Calligraphic compositions consisting of a description of the physical characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad were known as Hilye-i Şerif. In addition to this text, such compositions also included prayers, Koranic verses, diagrams, pictures of Mecca, Medina and sometimes Jerusalem, and occasionally poems and talismanic formulas written in diverse script types on large sheets of paper, usually pasted onto thick cardboard, and decorated with illumination and halkar gilding.

These were framed and displayed on the walls of homes.

Hilye-i Şerif Anthology (Early 19th century)Sadberk Hanım Museum

Portrait of Sultan Ahmed I (Circa 1605) by UnknownSadberk Hanım Museum

Collections of single page works by calligraphers, miniature painters and illuminators were compiled into albums known as murakka, the production of which became a specialised branch of Islamic arts of the book. Foremost among the subjects of pictures in these albums are figures of women and men and portraits of rulers.

It appears that these figures and portraits were produced and sold singly by the artists, since there are examples that have not been pasted onto album pages.

Portrait Album of the Ottoman Sultans (Circa 1850)Sadberk Hanım Museum

Portraits of the sultans are the earliest examples of portraiture in Ottoman art.In no other Islamic country have so many portraits been painted of the sultans as in the Ottoman Empire. Sadberk Hanım Museum has two albums — without an accompanying text —consisting of series of portraits inside oval medallions of the Ottoman sultans up to Sultan Mahmud II in one album and up to Sultan Abdülmecid in the other.

These portraits are probably the work of a painter educated in western-style art and they date from the mid-nineteenth century.

Endowment Deed of Mihrimah Sultan (Dated AH (mid ten days of) Rabi‘al-awwal 957 (29 March-8 April 1550)) by Scribe: Mevlana Ali Çelebi b. İvazSadberk Hanım Museum

Documents such as vakfiye (endowment deeds), mülkname (property deeds), ferman (royal edicts), berat (warrants) and menşur (patents) are valuable sources of information about Ottoman social and economic history, architecture and art.

Vakfiyes could be either in scroll or book form, while mülknames, fermans, berats and menşurs were always in the form of scrolls. At the top of most of these documents was the sultan's tuğra (imperial cipher), which was usually illuminated.

İcazetname (1280 (1863-64)) by Received by Süleyman VehbiSadberk Hanım Museum

When calligraphy students were judged to have mastered their art, they were awarded a diploma known as icazetname.

Tuğra of Sultan Selim III (Between 1789-1807) by Designed and executed by Mir İdris AliSadberk Hanım Museum

Illuminated tuğra, which were symbols of the Ottoman sultans, are principally found on official documents, seals and coins, but there are also some examples of royal tuğra written as independent works of art on paper more than two metres in length and illuminated by master artists. One exceptional example of a tuğra composition in the form of a panel for display is the work of Mir İdris Ali.

This masterpiece in Sadberk Hanım Museum is executed in cut-paper work using brightly coloured paper. The tuğra is that of Sultan Selim III (r. 1789-1807) and consists of the words, “Selim Han bin Mustafa, may he always be victorious”.

The decorative character of the work is further enhanced by a colourful cut-paper picture of an arbour over a pool surrounded by flowers, set in the space between the shafts and projections of the tuğra.

Panel for the Geylani (Kadiri) Order (1311 (1893-94)) by After a picture by Şeyh Mustafa Ahi el-KadiriSadberk Hanım Museum

Panel for the Sünbüliyye Order (Early 19th century) by Calligraphy by HaşimSadberk Hanım Museum

Writing Box (European, (reign of Sultan Abdülaziz 1861-1876))Sadberk Hanım Museum

In addition to works of calligraphy Sadberk Hanım Museum also has a collection of writing equipments. These include boxes in which calligraphers kept their material sand utensils. Among the divits or pen cases in the collection are two of royal quality made of silver, one bearing the tuğra of Sultan Abdülaziz and the other of Sultan Ahmed III. Another divit belongs to Sultan Mustafa.

Pen Case with Inkwell (Ottoman, 19th century)Sadberk Hanım Museum

A cylindrical kubur with Edirne work lacquer decoration bearing the signature of the maker Mustafa Edirnevi and the date 1771-72 is another of the outstanding pieces in the museum collection.

Credits: Story

Harmony of Line and Colour
Illuminated Manuscripts, Documents and Calligraphy in the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection

Zeren Tanindi

Project Coordinators
Bahattin Öztuncay, Hülya Bilgi

Ayşen Anadol, Christiane Gruber

English Translation
Mary Işın

Arabic Transcriptions, Translations
Abdurrahim Ayğan

İsmail Bakar

Yeşim Ecevit, Berrin Caka

Catalogue Design
Yeşim Demir Pröhl

Design Application
Didem Uraler Çelik

Hadiye Cangökçe, Aras Selim Bankoğlu

Digital Darkroom
Menderes Coşkun

MAS Matbaacılık San. ve Tic. A.Ş.
Hamidiye Mahallesi, Soğuksu Caddesi
No: 3, 34408 Kağıthane, İstanbul
T. 212 294 10 00 - F. 212 294 90 80
Sertifika No: 12055

Exhibition Design

Metin Deniz-Atölye MD, Ahmet Kol, Ozan Kol

Exhibition Graphics
Yeşim Demir Pröhl

Sadberk Hanım Müzesi
Piyasa Caddesi No.25-29
Büyükdere 34453
T. 212 242 38 13
F. 212 242 03 65

©2019 Vehbi Koç Vakfı
Sadberk Hanım Müzesi

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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