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Ottoman Art

Two different but distinctly Ottoman styles emerged in the court workshop. The first, called saz, combined floral palmettes and curving, featherlike leaves. The second, called the floral style, featured flowers, namely carnations, hyacinths, honeysuckles, roses, and tulips. Together these two styles have come to epitomize Ottoman Turkish art.

The imperial workshop at the Ottoman court worked exclusively for the sultan, his household, and the highest ranking officials. The most talented artists, designers, weavers, bookbinders, and calligraphers were recruited from regions all over the empire. Successful designs were copied and used repeatedly. When an order for the court was especially large, the royal workshop would contract external craftsmen, who would then become familiar with the court's designs. Such interactions helped spread these patterns throughout the empire. As a result, works of art in the official court style were produced throughout the empire in many media, including carpets woven in Cairo and throughout Asia Minor, silk velvets woven in Bursa, and brilliantly colored ceramic wares and tiles made in Iznik, near Istanbul.

Mosques from Baghdad to Budapest used a distinctly Ottoman architectural style, developed in part by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan. This style, which features a central plan, lead-covered domes, and slender minarets, visually conveyed the identity of the Ottomans from the capital in Istanbul to the farthest reaches of the empire (see fig. 6).


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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.