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Introduction

At its height, the Ottoman empire (1299–1923) stretched across three continents and ruled over a linguistically, religiously, ethnically, and culturally diverse population (see map; PDF). Uniting and governing such a population was a challenging task for the sultan (ruler) and his vast administration. The development of a distinct visual language was just one of the ways the centralized government created and projected a shared identity. The finest examples of Ottoman art were commissioned and made for royal patrons in the capital city, Istanbul (in present-day Turkey). From there, the designs and decorative motifs spread throughout the empire and beyond. (See also Domestic Life in Eighteenth-Century Damascus.)


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Tughra (official signature) of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520–66)

The lesson plan related to Art and Empire—The Ottoman Court features a sixteenth-century Tughra from Turkey.