In Arabic, calligraphy means “line” and a calligrapher is an artist with elegant hand-writing. Calligraphy has been a popular art of all ages. It is essential for a student of calligraphy to attend the classes of a master artist, and a successful student receives a certificate from his master.
The Turks contributed to Arabic script reaching a high aesthetic level and made it a branch of fine arts. During the early years of Islam, the Kufic script, which has a geometric character, was used. In the years following the Emigration, the Arabic script was subjected to many changes and took various names.
Caliph Osman and Caliph Ali made contributions to the development of script. Over time, the thuluth, celi, naskhi, taliq, divani, siyakat, riqa, reyhani and other script types developed.
Yakut, a Turk from Amasya, gained the respect of the Caliph with his skills in calligraphy and script in the 13th (7th in the Muslim Calendar) century. This calligrapher contributed to the history of calligraphy by inventing an attractive basic script that was both legible and picturesque. Through his efforts, the Arab/Islamic script acquired legibility and an aesthetic appearence, and he provided a firm foundation for the development of the script.
Yakut’s style spread through the Islamic world and was used by many of his students. The Yakut style was used by Ottoman calligraphers until the period of Şeyh Hamdullah, chief calligrapher of Sultan Bayezid II in the 15th century.
Şeyh Hamdullah introduced a new era in the art of calligraphy and fixed the rules of thuluth and naskhi scripts. He brought the style, which had been successfully developed by thousands of calligraphers over 500 years, to the highest level. The calligraphers copied the style of Şeyh as if competing with each other.
In the 17th century, the period in which Ottoman art and culture reached its peak, Hafız Osman created a new Turkish calligraphy style. He trained many calligraphers and himself produced many masterpieces.
As the 18th century Ottoman Sultans Mustafa II, Ahmet III and others, were interested in calligraphy, many distinguished calligraphers were trained during their reigns. In addition to beautiful Sultan monograms, many objects inscribed with thuluth, naskhi and celi scripts were produced.
The Turkish art of calligraphy reached the highest level of its 600-year development in the 19th century. The Ottoman Palace continued to protect the calligraphers and to appreciate beautiful calligraphy.
The masterpieces of Turkish calligraphers are defined as follows: “The Koran was inspired in Mecca, began to be spoken in Egypt and was written in İstanbul.”The art of calligraphy still maintains its liveliness today.
The paper was also important for calligraphy. In order to diminish its whiteness, the paper is first dyed, after which a process called sizing is employed and it is polished with special polishing instruments. The polishing instruments are made of flint, glass, agate and seashells.
The ink is generally made by mixing the soot obtained by burning linseed oil, wax, naphtha and kerosene with gum. The ink is put in containers called hokka (inkstands); a mıstar (ruler) is used to keep the lines, straight.The art of illumination has an important place in book ornamentation, the artist dealing with this art called müzehhip (illuminator).
The earliest examples of Turkish illumination are from the Anatolian Seljuk Period. On some manuscripts of the 13th century, it is seen that rumi motifs, dovetailed plaits, and geometric designs on curved branches are used in titles and spaces as illumination motifs. This characteristic continued in the 14th and 15th centuries.
A new illumination style was created in the 15th century, where rumi and hatayi motifs were applied singly or together on branches with round curves. Besides rumi motifs, tiny stylized flowers and hatayi motifs were the main motifs of illumination during the second half of the 15th century.
A motif called ”Chinese cloud” was introduced to the art of illumination in the 16th century. In this period, various tones of gold gilding, dark blue, light blue, orange, white, black, green, yellow and pink were used with medallions, winding rumi motifs and especially hatayi flowered curved branches and Chinese cloud motifs.
In the middle of the 16th century, the art of illumination became more elaborate. Rather than hatayi motifs, flower motifs were used, such as tulip, rose, hyacinth, narcissus, iris and jonquil growing in the Palace garden, fruit trees, and cypress trees.
In the 17th century, the classical style continued with less refined examples. In the chrysography technique, which makes abundant use of gold, the ornamentation was made on the painted background with free brush strokes.Western influence is seen in the art of illumination beginning from the middle of the 17th century.
In book ornamentation of the 18th century, it is seen that classical motifs were revitalized in addition to the use of new motifs. Besides chrysography ornamentation, illuminations consisting of Baroque motifs were used to decorate titles and the edges of pages.A style called ”Turkish Baroque and Rococo” spreads at the end of the 18th century.
The style is characterized by large curved leaves, garlands with flowers, baskets full of roses, ribbons and bowknots.Turkish illumination of the Ottoman Period ends at the close of the19th century with a neoclassical style in which classical motifs were once again revived.