Tughra (Insignia) of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66)
Not on view
A tughra is a stylized royal seal and signature applied by the Ottoman sultans to every royal edict. Different types were used by the early rulers. Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66) introduced a standard calligraphic design, starting from right with two to three horizontal lines, drawing a large oval to the left, and ending in the center with intervening letters at the bottom and three vertical undulated axes at the top. Each sultan’s tughra is slightly different, but typically comprises the name of the reigning sultan as well as his father’s name, his title, and the phrase "the eternally victorious." In this example, administrative function and artistry have created a masterpiece of Ottoman calligraphy, where the designed surface is filled with ornaments such as the scrolling floral vines in gold and blue.
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Title:Tughra (Insignia) of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66)
Geography:Attributed to Turkey, Istanbul
Medium:Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
Dimensions:Tughra: H. 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm) W. 23 1/2 in. (59.7cm) Mat: H. 25 in. (63.5 cm) W. 30 in. (76.2 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1938
Calligraphic Emblem (Tughra) of Süleiman the Magnificent
Not only has Arabic script undergone myriad stylistic transformations affecting the actual fundamental appearance of the letters, but parts of letters (most often the vertical shafts) have also developed into elaborate, totally non-calligraphic designs. In earlier times these were most often of a floral or geometric nature. (In rare examples on metalwork there are animal and/or human forms).
Practically the whole of the orthographically functional lines of the tughra are concentrated in the area of dense activity at the lower right, which gives the name and patronymic of the sultan as well as the formula "ever victorious." The exaggeratedly elongated verticals with their descending, swaying appendages, as well as the elaborate sweeping curves that form the large loops to the left and their extensions to the right, are essentially decorated, yet give the monogram its characteristic aspect.
There is no agreement among scholars concerning the underlying inspiration for the form of the Ottoman tughra, which became largely standardized in general appearance at least as early as the fifteenth century, and continued in this form into the twentieth. In any case, it provided calligraphers and illuminators with a format for the display of their talents, particularly well exemplified by the present sumptuous example, one of two in the Metropolitan's collection.
Manuel Keene in [Berlin 1981]
The tughra of an Ottoman sultan, affixed to all official documents and imperial decrees, became the ultimate symbol of his authority. Now, because of their supreme decorative quality, many have been cut from the documents they originally headed, as here. Each sultan had his own individual tughra, used throughout his reign and incorporating his name, titles, and ancestry. These are found in the compactly written portion at the lower right, while the rest, with its sweep and curve of calligraphic lines forming three vertical shafts with superimposed curves and its larger and smaller ovals protruding at the left with a long stem off to the right, follow an established form. This one emcompasses the finest degree of Ottoman illumination, with its floral scrolls with saz leaves, flowering plants and arabesques. The coloring is primarily blue and gold, highlighted with touches of red, green, and pink. This particular tughra, on stylistic grounds, can probably be dated to around 1555–1560, when the artistic development of Sulaiman's reign was at its most mature and refined.
Marie Lukens Swietochowski in [Walker et al. 1994]
Inscription: Inscriptions in Persian and Arabic:
سلیمان بن سلیم خان المظفر دائماً؟
Sulaiman, son of Selim Khan, ever victorious.
Below in diwani script in gold:
نشان شریف غالي الشأن سامي مکان سلطاني و طغراي غراي اقبال نماي و سعادت فزاي و جهان ستان خاقاني لا زال نافذ في الاطراف و الاکناف بعون الله الملک خفي الالطاف و ساریاً بعنایة الرحماني حکمي و اشارتي
This is the noble, exalted, brilliant sign-manual, the world-illuminating and adoring cipher of the Khaqan [may it be made efficient by the aid of the Lord and the protection of the Eternal]. My order and my ensign
[ E. Beghian, London, until 1938; sold to MMA]
Berlin. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 99.
Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," January 25–May 17, 1987, not in catalogue.
Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," June 14–September 7, 1987, not in catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," October 4, 1987–January 17, 1988, not in catalogue.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17–August 18, 1991, no catalogue.
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 9.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part I: Calligraphy," February 26–June 28, 1998, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rumi and the Sufi Tradition," October 23, 2007–February 3, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.
Portland, ME. Portland Museum of Art. "Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture," June 15, 2013–September 8, 2013, p. 74.
McAllister, Hannah E. "Tughras of Sulaiman the Magnificent." Museum of Metropolitan Art Bulletin vol. 34 (November 1939). pp. 247–48, ill.
Dimand, Maurice S. "Turkish Art of the Muhammadan Period." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n. s., vol. 2 (1944). p. 211, ill. (b/w).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 99, pp. 238–39, ill. (color).
Grabar, Oleg. "1989 Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts." In Intermediary Demons Toward a Theory of Ornament. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1989. p. 78, ill. fig. 52 (b/w).
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994–Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 9, pp. 62–63, ill. (color).
Al Khemir Sabiha Dr. "Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture." In Beauty and Belief. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 2012. pp. 74–75, 205, ill. (color).
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