Turkish decorative arts possess a rich heritage of nearly twelve centuries distinguished by the broad range of ornamentations employed in all its branches as well as their aesthetic values. A brief historical overview of traditional arts and crafts in Turkey takes us all the way back to Central Asia, Seljuks and Ottoman Empire.
In this blog post, we will briefly go over some of the key elements of the traditional arts and crafts in Turkey. There will be deeper reviews of each art form separately underneath this article for those who would like to have a deeper understanding of the meaning and motivation behind those forms.
The 13th and 14th centuries in Anatolia reflect a fascinating variant of widespread Islamic art with Nomadic elements and ornaments which developed and matured under the Seljuks as they expanded their state in Anatolia. Today apart from the specimens of Seljuk manuscripts the existing architectural monuments like mosques, educational and religious institutions called medresses mausoleums, caravansaries and bridges of Anatolia bare testimony to the flourishing arts of the Seljuk state which lasted until 1307 A.D.
Almost all the remaining Seljucian monuments have exquisite calligraphic scripts and ornaments of carved stones, stucco and tile decorations. The Ottoman Empire in the continuity of its long reign won fame with the brilliance of its cultural achievement. The patronage of the Ottoman Sultans is best reflected in the illustrated manuscripts specifically commissioned for the imperial libraries. The artists of the imperial studio located on the palace grounds called Nakışhane excel in the design of manuscripts with elaborate buildings dazzling miniature paintings including calligraphers, illuminators, painters and bookbinders.
These masters were responsible for the creation and the formulation of the designs used by other artists such as ceramics, frescos, woodworks, carved stone, metalwork, textiles and carpets. Ottoman calligraphers were famous for their inscriptions in architectural decoration as well as in manuscripts. Meanwhile, tile decoration became one of the basic elements of architecture brilliant period of Iznik tiles and ceramics covered the 15th and 16th century plus the first half of the 17th century. The exquisite designs employed in the ceramics and tiles are the best reflection of characteristics of art in those periods.
The teaching of the Koran is the very foundation of traditional arts and crafts in Turkey. Evidence can be found in the differences between Western and Ottoman arts especially before 1800. The main reason for the difference is the restrictions in the Koran on depicting the human form in its purity. That’s why traditional Turkish arts come in the form of lines and geometrical patterns. However, the inevitable influences from the Western world are also visible, especially in Turkish architecture.
To find out more go on the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey.