Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Tughra (Imperial Cipher) of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566), ca. 1555; Ottoman
    Turkey (Istanbul)
    Ink, opaque watercolors, and gold on paper; 20 1/2 x 25 3/8 in. (52.1 x 64.5 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1938 (38.149.1)

    The Ottoman tughra is a calligraphic emblem of the sultan's authority that was included in all official documents, such as firmans (royal decrees), endowment papers, correspondence, and coins. Used by the first Ottoman sultan in 1324, it later developed into a more complex form that included three vertical shafts and two concentric oval loops on the left. It consists of the name of the reigning sultan, his father's name, his title, and the phrase "the eternally victorious." This unique calligraphic emblem was not easily read or copied. Therefore, a specific court artist was designated to draw the undecorated, standard tughra. A court illuminator assisted him in the exquisite decoration of the tughra on certain imperial documents. The illuminator's delicate scroll design and naturalistic flowers enhance the harmonious lines of calligraphy, creating a colorful voluminous effect.

    This work of art also appears on 82nd & Fifth: Getting Lost and Connections: Letters

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    On view: Gallery 460
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  • Tughra (Imperial Cipher) of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566), ca. 1555; Ottoman
    Turkey (Istanbul)
    Ink, opaque watercolors, and gold on paper; 20 1/2 x 25 3/8 in. (52.1 x 64.5 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1938 (38.149.1)

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