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x0x SPRING IN OTTOMAN ART

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x SPRING IN OTTOMAN ART By Dr Yildiz Demiriz The mid-16th century saw a return to naturalism in the Ottoman decorative arts, and one of the most popular
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2003
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      x0x SPRING IN OTTOMAN ART

      By Dr Yildiz Demiriz

      The mid-16th century saw a return to naturalism in the Ottoman
      decorative arts, and one of the most popular motifs was fruit trees in
      blossom. This symbol of spring was often combined with tulips, roses
      and other flowers, and depicted sometimes as an entire tree and
      sometimes as branches alone. Another form was blossoming branches
      arranged like bouquet in a vase, or encircling a medallion like a
      creeper.

      It is difficult to identify the species with certainty, although the
      presence or absence of leaves, or the position of the blossom on the
      branch gives clues as to whether it might be plum, cherry or apple.

      Trees in blossom appeared in almost every sphere of decoration at this
      period, and like many other innovations, originated in the arts of the
      book. The finest miniature paintings and illumination were executed by
      artists working in the palace workshops, and the new motifs and
      compositions which they created inspired other craftsmen producing
      objects of beauty in many different techniques and materials for the
      palace.

      Karamemi, an artist who began working at the palace in the middle of
      the 16th century, used the spring blossom motif in a manuscript book
      of poetry, the Muhibbi Divani (Istanbul University Library T. 5467),
      whose illumination bears his signature. Blossom appears in the
      frontispiece, marginal decoration in gold halaria work, and the tiny
      illuminated panels separating sections of text in this manuscrip.

      The composition of the frontispiece was repeated by the same artist in
      a Koran (Topkapi Palace Library Y. 999) and in the Suleymanname (H.
      1517). In another manuscript in the Suleymaniye Library (Laleli 16)
      there is a superb composition of spring motifs executed in gold and
      pastel colours.

      The compositions on the endleafs of a manuscript of Forty Traditions
      of the Prophet (Topkapi Palace Library EH 2851) seem to carry us into
      a beautiful garden on a spring day.

      Here the trees in blossom are worked in lacquer. Although there is no
      signature, we know beyond any trace of doubt that this is the work of
      Karamemi. The compositions on the endleafs of a manuscript of Forty
      Traditions of the Prophet (Topkapi Palace Library EH 2851) seem to
      carry us into a beautiful garden on a spring day. Here the trees in
      blossom are worked in lacquer. Although there is no signature, we know
      beyond any trace of doubt that this is the work of Karamemi.

      Blossom also appears on textiles of many kinds. The campaign tents
      abandoned after the Siege of Vienna at the end of the 17th century by
      grand vizier Kara Mustafa Pasa, and which have been carefully
      preserved at the Wavel Museum in the Polish city of Cracow, have
      several examples of blossom worked on felt amongst their designs.

      A multiple prayer mat in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in
      Istanbul has a tree in blossom as the main motif in each of the
      panels. Again we find this motif on a caftan worn by Sultan Ahmed I as
      a child.

      Best known, perhaps, of all blossom designs are those on iznik ware
      tiles, and examples of these are so numerous that it would take pages
      to list them in full. Finest of all are the 16th and 17th century
      tiles in Topkapi Palace Harem, and others which come first to mind can
      be seen in Rustem Pasa Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Haghia Sophia
      Library, the Imperial Kasir of Yeni Mosque, the Mausoleum of Hurrem
      Sultan, Eski Valide Mosque in Uskudar, and Selimiye Mosque in Edirne.

      Once upon a time Istanbul was a city filled with gardens, and those
      gardens with fruit trees. Today when there are increasingly fewer
      fruit trees, we miss seeing trees in blossom, but we can take
      consolation in the beautiful works of art which they inspired.

      * Prof Dr Yildiz Demiriz is an art historian
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