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A Note on the Location of the Royal Ottoman Painting Ateliers

Author(s): Alan W. Fisher and Carol Garrett Fisher

Source: Muqarnas, Vol. 3 (1985), pp. 118-120
Published by: BRILL
Stable URL: .
Accessed: 03/03/2011 19:29

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Where was the royal Ottoman atelier? Ever since Rifki dormitories, kitchens, schoolrooms, and the treasury.
Melul Meric's publication of the sixteenth-century Ot- He tells us about the training of the palace func-
toman pay records listing court artists and their tionaries, includes lists of textbooks, and notes that
salaries,' scholars have assumed that, because artists some of the palace pages were taught various
appear on the court lists, they must have worked calligraphic styles and could study famous examples of
together in a common atelier or ateliers in or near the calligraphy in the palace. But Bobovi does not say ex-
palace. The question then asked was where this atelier actly where the now famous Ottoman manuscriptswere
was located, and that question remained unanswered. produced, or whether any of these pages were trained in
But it now seems possible that the question posed was illumination, painting, or any other aspect of the art of
the wrong one. For if the question is instead asked the book. Because of the detail in which he described
whether a royal Ottoman atelier ever existed inside or the palace and the education and functions of those in-
near the Topkapi, at least a tentative answer can then side it, the question arises whether the books were pro-
be produced. duced in the royal palace at all.
Several pieces of evidence suggest that the palace, Bobovi paints a different picture of the city of Istan-
and more specifically the palace library, may have bul. He refers to tutors, deaf-mutes, and merchants
served as a gathering and collating place for sections of "from the bazaars" who come and go from the city to
manuscripts that were either written or decorated at the palace. He says that some of the best craftsmen
various locations, both in Istanbul and elsewhere in the work near the bazaar. It is clear from this description
Ottoman empire. If so, this would broaden the implica- that by the mid-seventeenth century the palace was cer-
tions of Marianna Shreve Simpson's recently published tainly not completely removed from Istanbul, as it is
suggestion that pieces of the sixteenth-century Safavid said to have been in the early sixteenth century.
Haft Aurang were produced at various places in the Another source makes it clear that Istanbul was full
Safavid state and then brought together at the kitdb- of craftsmen and artists. Evliya Qelebi, the mid-
khdna of its patron, Sultan Ibrahim Mirza.2 Our seventeenth-century Ottoman gentleman and traveler,
hypothesis would extend this production practice to the says that Istanbul had more than 1,100 sub-guilds
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ottoman empire. (esnaf)organized into 57 large guild groups. The group
The first piece of evidence is really the absence of of artists was headed by the ser nakkas,whose head-
evidence in an unpublished 1686 translation of a quarters, Evliya says, were in a "manufactory"
description of the Topkapi Sarayi found in the papers of (kdrhane).Its members included the gold-beaters (zerkii-
Girardin, the envoy of Louis XIV to Istanbul. It is a byan),gilders (miizehheb kesan),bookbinders (miicellidan),
French translation of Serai enderun sic, cio, penetrate booksellers (sahhafan), stationers (kagitcian) who
dell'seriio detto nuovodei G. sri e re ottomani written by specialized in Persian and Venetian paper, inkstand
Bobovi in 1657.3 Bobovi was a slave and music instruc- and portfolio makers, clerks, inkmakers, paper cutters,
tor in the palace until he was ousted for drunkenness. artificial-palm-treemakers, wax-bird makers, printers,
His description of the Topkapi Sarayi circulated calico printers, embroiderers, and embroiderersof han-
throughout the European community in Istanbul. dkerchiefs.4
Bobovi's description of the palace, aside from the In this group were three sections of painters. The
harem, is detailed. It describes virtually all the rooms in first, the nakkasan,is said to have had one hundred
the first three courtyards, including the laundry, baths, shops, including one in the upper story of the Lion

House (Arslan-Han), and to number over a thousand out this task.8 Further, the Meric pay records note a
men. Evliya says these painters "arrange bows, chairs, piecemeal payment of 300 akces per miniature for the
and so forth on litters, upon which they place works of Siyar-i Nabi miniatures.9 It therefore seems reasonable
the most famous painters, such as Shah Quli, Veli Jan, to suggest that miniature painters and calli-
Aga Riza, Murdar Ilik, Bizad, Mani, Frenk Sinor, and graphers-including some working in the tekke
Jan Shah."5 The second group are the portrait painters style-may have been supplying these miniatures from
(nakkasan-i musaviran), who number forty men in four various sources, either by moving artists between tekke
shops. Evliya says that while the Prophet Muhammad or other ateliers and the palace or by sending job lots to
gave no one permission to paint any image other than a central gathering place.
the lion on his battle standard, the Greek painters "to A still earlier piece of evidence can be considered. In
exalt the glory of Islam" paint the battles of Hamza and a document recording palace expenses for the period
the heroes of Islam, and that they "paint them like the 1552-55, the expenses for the production of the Sehname-
ancient heroes, of whom mention is made in the i hassa of Kanuni Siileyman are recorded.10 The total
Shahname." He lists the most famous Turkish portrait comes to 21,056 akces. Among the items listed are 161
painters as Miskali Solakzade, Teriaki Osman (elebi, akces for "the cost of carpenters for construction of par-
and Tas Baz Pehlivan Ali.6 titions in the room of the kdtibs of the sehname in the
Finally, the third group of painters comprises the house of Fethullah Qelebi, the ?ehnameci." It seems
painter fortune-tellers (falciyan-i miisaviran). Their chief possible in this instance to postulate a separate atelier
is Hoca Mehmed Qelebi whose shop was in the district for this master in the sixteenth century. As in the later
of Mahmud Pasha and who had once had the honor of descriptions of Evliya Qelebi, it seems possible, too,
speaking with Sultan Siileyman I. His shop, reports that this atelier was situated in the city of Istanbul, but
Evliya, is filled with "pictures and figures of all the outside the palace.l
aforesaid heroes and knights drawn with the pen on Although far from providing a definitive answer to
coarse paper to be used as soothsaying devices." Those the question, the evidence does warrant considering the
portrayed include Yusuf and Ziileyka, Majnun and possibility that in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen-
Leila, Farhad and ?irin, Warka and Gulsah. Evliya tury, the Ottoman empire handled the manufacture of
asserts that Hoca Mehmed Qelebi "carried them to the its memorable manuscripts much as the Safavids did.
Sultan, and at the public procession passed as chief of The palace served as a gathering point for the artistic
these painter soothsayers exhibiting his pictures." In genius of the various workshops of the empire and was
short, according to Evliya there were literally hundreds much more closely connected with the art of the city
of painters in Istanbul in the mid-seventeenth century, and of the tekke than has heretofore been perceived.
and some of them had dealings with the royal palace.7
Other texts add support to our hypothesis and extend Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
it back into the sixteenth century. If one examines cer-
tain manuscripts from the reign of Murad III in the late
sixteenth century, it is possible to find a stylistic likeness
between manuscript illustrations assigned to the NOTES
"palace ateliers" such as some in the Siyar-i Nabi, a cy-
1. R. M. Meric, TurkNakisSanatiTarihiArastirmalari: I. Vesikalar
cle of eight hundred miniatures produced in 1594-95 for
Murad III, and the "tekke style" identified by Atasoy 2. M. S. Simpson,"The Productionand Patronageof the Haft
and Qagman in a group of manuscripts whose col- Aurang by Jami in the FreerGalleryof Art," ArsOrientalis 13
ophons indicate they were made in Mevlevi dervish (1982):93-104.
convents in Baghdad or Konya. Because of their iden- 3. Paris,BibliothequeNationale,ms. N.A.F. 4997. Our transla-
tion and annotationof this manuscriptwill appearin Archivum
tification with Sufi convents, scholars have been slow to
Ottomanicum (in press).
connect these manuscripts with the orthodox palace 4. Evliya Qelebi, Seyahatname, 10 vols. (Istanbul, 1896-1928),
milieu, but there is evidence that there were connec- 1:607-12.Susan Skilliter,Lifein Istanbul,1588: Scenesfroma
tions. In 1590, for example, Murad III brought Traveller's
Mahmud Dede, a Mevlevi from Konya, to the Topkapi privateconversationin June 1981, statesthat in the sixteenth
centurythere was a schoolof paintersin Istanbulwho were
Sarayi to have him make a translation of the Manaqib-i probably European-comparableto the well-documented
thavaqib. He is said to have returned to Konya to carry China-tradepainters who were both Chinese and Euro-

pean-who produced genre scenes of the city and countryside paper (devlet-abade, which was the much valued yellowish
for Europeans. It is important to keep in mind that such official glazed paper): 356 pieces, 3,392 akces
titles as sernakkas, nakkasbasi, ista, and kethiida found in works Samarkand paper, 192 pieces, 800
about Ottoman painters were titles commonly used for officials gold leaf and lapis lazuli for the chief grater, 200
throughout the Ottoman guild system; they had no special lapis lazuli, indigo blue, asi (?), vermillion, white lead,
significance for artists (i.e., they were not equivalent to red lead, yellow, green, camel (l1k), smoke (dide) for
"master," "chief painter," and so forth). See Robert Man- illustrating the Sehname-iHassa, 185
tran, Istanbul dans la seconde moitie du XVIe siecle (Paris, 1962), salary for Mustafa, chief katib of the sehname, 4,620
pp. 367-89, for an analysis of guild organization. The pay subsistence for the katibs of the sehname (30 persons),
records in Meric, show that the guild titles, sernakkas, iista, and 1726 akces
kethiida, were used in the palace pay registers as well. subsistance for the painters (15 persons), 558
5. Evliya Celebi, Seyahatname, 1:607. cost for katibs for writing the sehname of 45,000 beyts
6. Ibid., pp. 610-11. a. 15,000 beyts 600 akces
7. Ibid., p. 611. b. 30,000 beyts 3600 akces
8. F. Qagman, "XVI. Yuzyil Sonlarinda Mevlevi Dergahlarinda katib-graters foreman (siibasi), 200
Gelisen Bir Minyatiir Okulu," I. Milletler Arasi Tiirkoloji bookbinder, for cardboard and chemicals, 20
Kongresi (Istanbul 15-20, X, 1970) (Istanbul, 1979), pp. 651-79; scribes for "white writing" (beyaz-i sehname), 1,880
N. Atasoy and F. (agman, Turkish Miniature Painting (Istanbul, Which Shahnama is involved is unclear. (agman and Atasoy list
1974), pp. 58-63; C. Fisher, "The Pictorial Cycle of the Siyer-i two that could conceivably be candidates: Topkapi Sarayi R.
Nebi: A Late-Sixteenth-Century Manuscript of the Life of 1549, 43 miniatures, c. 1540, and Topkapi Sarayi H. 1522, 55
Muhammad," Ph. D. diss., Michigan State University, 1981, miniatures, c. 1560-65; but it could, of course, be an entirely
pp. 90-99. unknown one.
9. Meric, Turk Nakis Sanati Tarihi, p. 76. 11. Fethullah Arif Qelebi was the sehnamecifor much of the reign of
10. Omer Lutfi Barkan, Istanbul Saraylarina ait Muhasebe Defterleri, Sultan Sileyman I. Atasoy and Qagman, Turkish Miniature
(Tirk Tarih Kurumu Belgeler, vol. 9/13) (Ankara, 1979), pp. Painting, p. 28, state that "this position only became official
69-70. The expenses (all in akces) included: during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. Its main
gold leaf (178 packets), 2,805 characteristics were based on the works of Arifi. ... Arifi wrote
ink, 209 his seyname of the Ottoman dynasty in five volumes, of which
the Siileymannama is the fifth and last.

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