Empire of the Sultans
This exhibition embraces every aspect of art from the Ottoman Dynasty which ruled the Turkish empire for more than six centuries (1288-1922). The Ottomans, warriors of Islam, emerged in Asia Minor in the late 13th Century and expanded their empire north-westwards to the Danube - reaching a peak in the late 16th and 17th Centuries. Throughout this time, patronage of architecture and the arts flourished. Iranian born, Dr. Nasser D. Khalili is responsible for this outstanding collection of Ottoman Art. Since 1970 he has assembled a number of impressive art collections in a broad range of fields which are now being presented to the public in a series of publications and exhibitions. With over 2000 objects on display, this important collection has been brought to the United States for the first time and will include objects that have never before been exhibited. It is awe-striking to study the craftsmanship of the best artisans of the empire and to imagine the painstaking processes employed to create gold leaf medallions, rich textiles, decorated armour, jewel encrusted weapons, steel war masks, exuberantly decorated tiles, and rifles embedded with bone and ivory, gems and gold. One noteworthy accomplishment, no doubt requiring great patience and accuracy is the creation of a calligraphic leaf. An art that reached the peak of its popularity in 19th Century Ottoman Turkey. These leaves were inspired by large carved wooden roundels made for Ottoman mosques. Probably because of it's hardy structure the tabacco leaf was most commonly used. The moisture was completely removed from the leaves and an intricate calligraphic composition was written or stenciled on its surface. The leaf tissue was then pierced with a sharp point and carefully excised, leaving behind the composition overlaying the skeletal membrane of the leaf. The 'Empire of the Sultans' exhibition also shows the primary importance of calligraphy within a wider context of Ottoman Art. Calligraphy was considered the noblest of the arts among Ottoman craftsmen. The exhibit features numerous copies of the Holy Kur'an, embellished and illuminated with gold leaf, floral motifs and scrolling arabesques. Also included are fine examples of calligraphy, used in royal decrees, the literature of dervish orders and in works of science and geography. Combined with cut out designs, the tools used to create these manuscripts are also on display. Think of this show as the Empire inside the Museum.
© Robert Peterson