According to Christianity, as the God depicts himself in the form of a man, the image of a human face became a part of worshipping. The face of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary, accompanied by various angel images on their sides, has been depicted since the beginning of Christianity. Sculpture and painting art developed in Christianity, but calligraphy was never as important as in Islam.
In Islam, on the other hand, as Allah depicts himself by his own words, writing replaced the image of a man. This form of art that owes its existence to the words of Allah and dedicates itself to his sayings, has been used to write the verses of Quran and Prophet Mohammed’s sayings.
Materials Used in Calligraphy
Pencils that were used by calligraphists were made by sugarcane and the way they were sculpted determined the type of body. Silver and coral hafted knives named as pencil sharpeners were used to sculpt pencils and they were placed on pencil racks made of bone or ivory.
Nowadays, it’s possible to encounter examples of pencil sharpener sets at Topkapi Palace Treasury Office.
Ink that was used in calligraphy was made of the ashes gathered in spaces at the top of the walls formed by the soot of candles at mosques made by sultans of Ottoman Empire.
Calligraphists made corrections using the tip of their tongues. Thus, the term ‘’educated’’ (idiom: someone who licked ink) originated from this practice.
Each calligraphist had their own inkstand and a long, flat inkwell they carried on their belt hanging like a knife.
Islamic Kufi Calligraphy
Types of Islamic Calligraphy
Calligraphy originated and developed in Arabic countries at first. The most widespread type of calligraphy is Cufic, which takes its name from the city Kufa and Cufic motif was also used in Seljuk carpets. Official correspondenceused to be carried out by Celi Calligraphy in big fonts and administrative correspondence used to be carried out by Tumar Calligraphy.
In time, some more flexible types of calligraphy emerged, unlike Cufic which had a cramped style. All types of calligraphy were systemized by El-Mustasimi and they were named Aklam-i Sitte (Foot Note). These are named as Sulus, Nesih, Muhakkak, Reyhani, Tevki and Rika.
Masters of Ottoman Calligraphy
The Turks began to adopt and use calligraphy after they became Muslim. One of the characteristics of early Turkish carpets that spread to the museums all around the world during Seljuks was that Cufic calligraphy was embroidered on the corners of the carpets.
During Ottoman Empire, Turkish calligraphy had its golden days. During Ottoman Empire, some masters lived who dominated Turkish calligraphy.
The first of these masters is Seyh Hamdullah who was the chief calligraphist during Bayezid II reign. By the order of the sultan, he tried to perfect 6 types of calligraphy that were invented until that time and he created a style that was later called as ‘’Seyh style’’.
Second of these masters is Ahmed Karahisari. This great master lived during Suleiman the Magnificent reign. He adopted a method called ‘’Ruby style’’.
Around the end of the 17th Century, a master named Hafiz Osman made fundamental changes in calligraphy and made sure his teachings were followed by the others.
Ottoman Sultan’s Signature (Tugra)
Ottoman calligraphers showed great craftsmanship in a calligraphy type named Celi. They turned calligraphy into one of the biggest elements of memorial architecture that they carved on stone and wood or embroidered on tile. Nowadays, examples of this art can be seen at Topkapi Palace and the mosques made by Ottoman Sultans.
On the other hand, Sultans’ signature, the mixture of calligraphy and illuminated manuscript, contained a sultan’s name and title in a specific pattern developed for centuries.
Today, someone who comes to Istanbul for a touristic visit encounters the examples of Turkish carpets, Iznik tiles and Turkish calligraphy art the most. These branches of art began to develop during the Seljuk Empire and reached their peak in the Ottoman period.
The fact that these three important pieces of Turkish handicrafts experienced their best period in the Ottoman Empire was in a sense simultaneous with the rise of the empire.
Especially mosques and palaces built during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent were decorated with these precious items.
Since the sultan’s family and high-level bureaucrats had many mosques, palaces, public fountains and tombs built, the palace architects had a lot of work.
During this period, Mimar Sinan, the greatest architect in Ottoman history, took office. This famous palace architect, who lived to be 100 years old, was the most prolific architect in Ottoman history.
The period of Mimar Sinan was the pinnacle of Ottoman art, not only in terms of architecture but also in terms of art. Because Sinan developed the production methods of the carpet and ceramic workshops and made them run at full speed.
Masters trained in this period decorated all over Istanbul with beautiful works. To observe this period, it is necessary to visit the structures built between the 16th and 18th centuries in the Historic Peninsula.
Written by Serhat Engul
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