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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Album of Calligraphies Including Poetry and Prophetic Traditions (Hadith)

Shaikh Hamdullah ibn Mustafa Dede (d. 1520)
Object Name:
Non-illustrated manuscript
ca. 1500
Made in Turkey, probably Istanbul
Main support: ink, watercolor, and gold on paper Margins: ink, watercolor and gold; marbled paper Binding: leather and gold
Ht. 12 5/8 in. (32.1 cm) W. 9 3/8 in. (23.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edwin Binney 3rd and Edward Ablat Gifts, 1982
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 450
This album contains samples written by Shaykh Hamdullah, the most famous Ottoman calligrapher. The text comes from the Hadith, the compilation of the Prophet Muhammad's words and deeds that is an important source for moral and legal guidance in the Islamic tradition. On each page, several lines of a small script (naskh) are framed by one or two lines in a larger script (thuluth or muhaqqaq) and then pasted onto sheets of marbleized paper, each with a different pattern.
Mounted within colorful ebru (marbled) papers and surrounded by parti-colored inner borders, these two pages of graceful calligraphy form part of a leather-bound album composed of six folios. Album making was a popular practice in many parts of the Islamic world, including Persia and the Ottoman Empire, with regional examples following their own distinct style and trajectory of development.[1] Such albums—sometimes referred to as muraqqa‘—often incorporated paintings, calligraphies, illuminations, colorful decorated papers, and embellished borders.
The earliest Ottoman albums appeared in the fifteenth century, prefiguring the later proliferation of such collections.[2] In Turkey these murakkaalar (singular, murakkaa; in Arabic, muraqqa‘) often included calligraphic exercises based on Arabic poems, prayers, and Qur’anic verses—as in this example—and typically were bound in a horizontal format. While many of these Ottoman calligraphy albums have survived, this one is of particular importance as it contains the work of the most celebrated early Ottoman calligraphy master, Hamdullah ibn Mustafa Dede (d. 1520).[3]
Hamdullah, who would come to be known as "Shaikh" Hamdullah, was born and raised in Amasya in north-central Turkey. There he studied the "six scripts," following in the style of the great thirteenth-century calligraphy master, Yaqut al-Musta‘simi. During his career Shaikh Hamdullah became associated with the governor of the region, Prince Bayezid (1450–1512), son of the Ottoman sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. When the prince became Sultan Bayezid II in 1481, Shaikh Hamdullah was asked to join him in Istanbul, where he became a royal calligrapher at the Topkapı Palace and perhaps master of the imperial atelier.[4]
In this capacity the prolific artist penned a staggering number of manuscripts, among them a magnificent Qur’an dedicated to Sultan Bayezid.[5] Shaikh Hamdullah is best known, however, for the innovative modifications he applied to the calligraphic scripts, particularly his achievements in nesih (naskhi) and sülüs (thuluth) styles. The new proportions he introduced became the canon for Ottoman calligraphy, studied by students and adopted by masters of Ottoman art over subsequent centuries.
Denise-Marie Teece in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. For more on album making in the Persian tradition, see Roxburgh 2005. For the Mughal period, see Welch et al 1987, esp. pp. 23ff.; and, more recently, Muraqqa’: Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Exhibition, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Detroit Institute of Arts; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.; Denver Art Museum, 2008–9. Catalogue by Elaine Wright, Susan Stronge, and Wheeler [M.] Thackston. Alexandria, Va., 2008.
2. See the section in Derman 1998 devoted to "Murakkaalar," pp. 29–30.
3. Other albums containing the work of this important calligrapher are found in Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace Museum (nos. E.H. 2078 and E.H. 2092) and the Turkish and Islamic Museum (no. 2458; Osmanli sanatinda hat. Exhibition, Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul. Catalogue by Filiz Cağman and and Sule Aksoy. Istanbul, 1998, pp. 44–49, nos. 29–31); in the Khalili Collection, London (see Rogers 1995, pp. 233–35, nos. 161, 162); and in the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul (see Derman 1998, pp. 46–47, no. 1).
4. For a general background on Shaikh Hamdullah’s life, see Atil 1987, pp. 44ff.; Raby and Tanındı 1993, pp. 96–100.
5. See Raby and Tanındı 1993, p. 96. They suggest that the Qur’an in question is likely their no. 40 (Topkapı Palace Library, MS A.5). See also Blair 2006, pp. 479–81 and nn. 16–26.
Signature: Hamdullah ibn Mustafa Dede (on penultimate page)

Inscription: Uper calligraphy
Arabic poem Thulth script:
لعمرک ان المعالي قسم نعم و تنال العلی بالهمم (repeated twice)
فجرد من العزم ماضي الشبا[ب] و شمر لسعي العلی عن قدم
و لا ترض منها بما قد حوت یداک و لو کن حمر النعم
فبئس المقام المستوطن مقام به یتساوی القیم
[I] swear that high positions is share, it is properties and the chivalrous got by hard work.
So took from decision the past of youth, and try to get chivalrous.
And do not accept from [life] what your hand have, even if it is livestock.
So the worse living place is a place that all values are equal.
Down calligraphy
In Thulth script:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم In the name of God the merciful the more merciful
In Naskhi script:
قال رسول الله صلی الله علیه/ و سلم رصوا صفوفکم و قاربوا بینها و حاذوا/ بالاعناق فوالذي نفسي بیده اني لأری الشیطان
The prophet piece and prayer of Gog upon him said: make your rows (in prayer) solid and be close to each other and … the necks and I swear by whom my breath in his hand that I see devil…
In Thulth script:
عن النبي صلی الله علیه و سلم
arrative from prophet prayer and peace of God upon him.
On one page of this Album the name of the calligrapher written as:
کتبه الفقیر حمدالله بن مصطفی دده
Written by the poor Hamdullah son of Mustafa Dada.

Philip Hofer, Cambridge, MA (until 1982; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Celestial Pen: Islamic Calligraphy," September 28, 1982–February 7, 1983, no catalogue.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Perfect Page: The Art of Embellishment in Islamic Book Design," May 17, 1991–August 18, 1991, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part I: Calligraphy," February 26, 1998–June 28, 1998.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 40 (1982–1983). p. 10, ill. (b/w).

Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987. pp. 44ff, (related).

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 123, ill. fig. 93 (color).

Welch, Stuart Cary, Annemarie Schimmel, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, and Wheeler M. Thackston. The Emperors' Album: Images of Mughal India. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. , esp. pp. 23ff, (Album making in the Mughal period).

Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). p. 21, ill. fig. 26 (color).

Raby, Julian, and Zeren Tanindi. "The Foundation of an Ottoman Court Style." In Turkish Bookbinding in the 15th Century :. London, 1993. pp. 96–100.

Rogers, J. M. Empire of the Sultans : Ottoman Art from the Collection of Nasser D. Khalili. London: Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, 1995. no. nos. 161, 162, pp. 233–35, ill. pls. 161, 162, (related).

Safwat, Nabil F. The Harmony of Letters. Kuwait, 1997. pp. 62-63, ill. (color), p. 20 for binding.

Derman, M. Ugur. "Ottoman Calligraphy from the Sakip Sabanci Collection, Istanbul." In Letters in Gold. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. pp. 29–30, 46–47, (related).

Roxburgh, David J. "From Dispersal to Collection." In The Persian Album, 1400–1600. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005.

Blair, Sheila S. Islamic Calligraphy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. pp. 479–81.

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 204, pp. 292-293, ill. p. 293 (color).

Haidar, Navina. "Visual Splendour: Embellished Pages from the Metropolitan Museum 's Collection of Islamic and Indian Manuscripts." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). pp. 112-113, ill. fig. 9 (color).

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