Journal of Ottoman Calligraphy

Lectures & Editorials on Calligraphy

‘Calligrapher Ottoman Sultans Exhibit’

Sunday, June 13, 1999

In Turkey, public and private museums organize various activities for Museum Week which takes place between May 18-24,1999. In this context, one of the most interesting displays was opened at the Foundations General Directorate’s “Turkish Foundation Calligraphy Art Museum.” The “Calligrapher Ottoman Sultans Exhibit,” which opened on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire and of Museum Week, was greeted with enthusiasm by art lovers and people interested in Turkish calligraphy.

“Some of the Ottoman sultans were interested not only in literature and music but also artistic writing, and that is why we can see their calligraphic works in religious buildings, museums and special collections. The sons of the Ottoman sultans also showed a keen interest in this art. Ottoman sultans who acquired a reputation for calligraphy were Murat II, Murat III, Beyazid II, Kanuni Sultan Suleyman, Murat IV, Suleyman II, Mustafa II, Ahmet III, Mahmut II and Sultan Abdulmecid. It is well known that Murat II was particularly skilled in “sulus” and “nesih,” but we don’t know who his teacher was. Bayezid II (1481-1512) studied at a religious school, took lessons from well-known calligrapher Sheikh Hamdullah and after he became sultan, he invited his teacher, who lived in Germany, to come to Istanbul.

Beyazid II, who used the pseudonym Adli, followed in the footsteps of his teacher and, at the end, their “sulus” and “nesih” writings were so similar that it was almost impossible to separate them. Kanuni Sultan Suleyman composed poems using the pseudonym “muhibbi” and we know from various sources that he was an expert in “sulus” and “talik.” Murat III (1574-1595) took lessons from Sheikh Suca Halveti and wrote “nesih” and “talik.” His works are preserved in the Turkish Foundation Calligraphy Art Museum and the St. Sophia Museum. It is believed that Murat IV (1623-1640) started writing “talik” after taking lessons from the Persian Imad.
Suleyman II (1687-1691) took lessons from Ahmet Efendi of Tokat and used the “sulus” and “nesih” scripts. Mustafa II (1695-1703) was the student of Hocazade Mehmet Efendi and Hafiz Osman and became an expert in “talik,” “nesih,” and “sulus.” It is believed that a “besmele” (prayer recited by Muslims before starting a new project) which is kept in the St. Sophia today belonged to Mustafa II. Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730) took lessons from the famous calligrapher of the time Hafiz Osman and wrote in the “sulus” and “celi” scripts. His writings were ornamented by famous gilding artist Tozkondurmaz Mustafa Aga. The “celi” hadith on the Yeni Valide Camii in Uskudar, the panel on the Ayazma mosque, the kiosk with his name in Sultanahmet and the script on the door of the Hirka-i Saadet Office where the sacred belongings of the Topkapi museum are kept are his work. Besides, two of his Korans have been sent to the Ravza-i Mutahhara in Medina. The Turkish Foundation Calligraphy Art Museum includes his calligraphy panels brought from the Ortakoy Kucuk Mecidiye Mosque and the Halicioglu Mihrisah Sultan Mosque.

Mahmut II was able to spare the time for art and especially calligraphy even during the most difficult times of the empire. He took lessons from Mehmet Vasfi Efendi and Mustafa Rakim. Beyazid II has calligraphy plates in the Suleymaniye and Uskudar Yeni Valde mosques, the Konya Mevlana Museum and the Turkish Foundation Calligraphy Art Museum. Abdulmecid (1839-1861) was an Ottoman sultan known for his sympathy for Western culture. He used the “sulus,” “celi” and “rika” scripts and took lessons from Mahmud Celaleddin and Tahir Efendi. His works are kept in the Beylerbeyi Mosque and the Turkish Calligraphy Art Museum.
The plates on the altar of the St. Sophia were also written by Ottoman sultans. Yet the sultans did not want to sign them out of respect for the sanctity of the St. Sophia. It was only when experts analyzed the plates later on that they understood that the handwritings belonged to the rulers.

The “Calligrapher Ottoman Sultans Exhibit” at the Turkish Foundation Calligraphy Art Museum during Museum Week introduced this little known aspect of the Ottoman sultans to the people. Furthermore, museum director Dr. Z. Cihan Ozsayiner recently started new research at the Foundation’s General Directorate. “

Text © ERDEM YUCEL, Turkish Daily News.


Written by calligrapher

March 28, 2007 at 5:05 am

Posted in Exhibitions

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