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Miniature Painting


In manuscripts, the book pictures prepared in order to decorate and visually support the subject of the book and the text are called “Miniature”. This word was adopted into Turkish from Western languages. It stems from the Latin word “miniare”, which defined the embellishments on the beginnings of chapters of the handwritten books in the medieval period in Europe. It is used as “miniature” in Italian and “miniature” in French.

Miniature is drawn as a sketch on glossy (ahar) paper with a very thin brush, brick-colored paint or sepia ink; first, the gold is overlaid and then it is painted with other colors. Glossing is made with a thick mixture of egg white with some alum or sugar-free starch. It is brushed on the paper and then left to dry. Later, it is polished with a stone. The paints used for miniature drawing are earth paintings. They are also mixed with glue dissolved in water, and in order to be able to use the paints again after they dry out; few drops of grape juice or molasses are added. The dried out paint becomes reusable when it is soaked with some water.
The first examples of the Ottoman art of miniature are seen on the handwritten books, which were written in Edirne and Amasya in the 15th century. Shah Ahmedi’s “Iskendername” written in 1416 in Amasya is the oldest example of handwritten books with miniatures. Ahmedi was an Anatolian poet.
Ersoy, A. (2008). Traditional Turkish Arts. Ankara: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2008.
"Miniature painting—or taswir and nakish, as the Ottomans called it—was the dominant form of Ottoman pictorial art until the eighteenth century. It developed together with medieval Islamic book illustration—alongside illumination (tezhip), calligraphy (hat), paper marbling (ebru), and bookbinding (cilt). Manuscript production formed an integral part of Ottoman institutional activities. Miniatures were produced mostly in the imperial studio (Nakkashane) founded in the mid-fifteenth century under the patronage of Mehmed the Conqueror (1451-1481). It was an art of the court commissioned, largely, by Ottoman sultans and powerful courtiers.
The imperial studio was responsible for creating a unique style, designed by the head masters, such as Nakkash Osman, Matrakçi Nasuh, and Nigari from the sixteenth century; Nakkash Hasan, Ahmed Nakşî, and Musavvir Hüseyin Istanbulî from the seventeenth century; and Levnî and Abdullah Buharî from the eighteenth century. The preparation of an illuminated manuscript engaged various craftsmen—the author, the calligrapher, the Gilder, the illuminator, the margin-drawer, the illuminator of intricate floral ornamentation, the marbled-paper maker, the painter, the master binder, and the artist who ornamented the bindings with lacquer work. That the miniatures were not signed until the eighteenth century alludes to the collective nature of their production. According to Günsel Renda, the representational modes of miniature painting were formed by artists who “imbued with the abstract worldview of Islam, reflecting a conception of painting based on primary colors, emphasized contours, and a preference for decorative surfaces and two-dimensional depiction omitting light and shade” (1995: 16). This conceptual approach to figural representation was handed down to the Ottomans from Persian and Timurid schools (particularly those developed in Shiraz, Tabriz, and Herat) as well as from Chinese and Byzantine painting—even if the latter influence is rarely mentioned. The Ottomans conceived miniature painting as an art in the service of the Empire and therefore regularly commissioned works depicting the daily events and activities related to the palace circles.In this sense, Ottoman miniature painting differs from its artistic counterparts such as those flourishing in the Safavi (Persian) and Mughal schools, which have poetic styles.
Illustrated books fall into classifications including history, cartography, urban topography, science (cosmology, geography, astronomy, pharmacology, botany, alchemy, and physics), (sultanic) portraiture, literature, and religion (with the exception, of course, of representations of the Koran). The formative period (ca.1451-1520) of Ottoman miniature painting was heavily influenced by the examples of Western schools brought by Venetian artists—such as Gentile Bellini and Costanzo de Ferrara—who were invited to Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror. Simultaneously, local artists were grappling with Persian, Timurid, and Chinese masterpieces so as to find a unique Ottoman visual voice. Going forward, the sixteenth century, which has been considered the “golden age” of Ottoman miniature painting, was the period in which the imperial visual language was institutionalized, especially in the works of Nakkash Osman, which tended not to use the effects of Italianate painting introduced in the previous century and created a more “Eastern” style of expression."
Firat, B. O. (2008). Disorienting encounters : re-reading seventeenth and eighteenth century Ottoman miniature paintings = Desoriënterende ontmoetingen : een herlezing van zeventiende- en achttiende-eeuwse Ottomaanse miniaturen
Ottoman miniatures are collected in manuscripts prepared foremost for the sultans but also for important and powerful figures in the retinues. The most important of these works are still preserved in the place in which they were produced, the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Other museums and libraries in Istanbul also house rare manuscripts containing outstanding examples of Turkish miniature painting. A distinctive feature of Ottoman miniature art is that it portrays actual events realistically yet adheres to the traditional canons of Islamic art, with its abstract formal expression. Nearly all these paintings are concerned with important events of the day, such as Turkish victories, the conquest of fortresses, the conduct of state affairs, and the people and artisans of the capital city taking part in festivals, formal processions, and circumcision feasts.
Continually required to illustrate different sorts of subjects, the Ottoman court nakkas’s (designer-painters) depicted daily events or illustrated works by court writers on contemporary themes, vying with them in creative energy. To preserve the currency of the works they had prepared and to ensure that the orders of the sultan were carried out, they worked very rapidly, with the results that the Turkish miniature is purged of fine and elaborate ornamentation for manuscripts, Ottoman miniatures are also records of contemporary events, filtered through the artists’ own concept of reality. The fact that Ottoman art fostered more portraiture than the art of any other Islamic culture, with the exception of Mogul India, is another indication of this trend toward realism. From the 15th to the 20th century royal portraits formed an integral part of the art of the book.
Ottoman miniature painting, which was periodically affected by different artistic influences, was essentially a form of what can be called ‘historical painting’, by its nature an art based on observation. The bulk of Turkish miniatures comprise works of documentary value involving rich subject matter and an originality which derives from the depiction of actual events.
Çağman, F. (1987). Miniature. Ankara: Turkish Republic, Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Surname-i Vehbi, Levni, 1729-1730
     Surname-i Vehbi, Levni, 1729-1730
     Surname-i Vehbi, Levni, 1729-1730
     Surname-i Vehbi, Levni, 1729-1730