Ottoman Commemorative Textile
This impressive textile honouring the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, Osman Gazi (r. 1299-1326), is made of felt with gold thread and sequins. There are floral, figural and animal motifs, as well as crescent moons, stars and tughras in gold, red, green and brown colours dominating the large black background. In the centralised medallion, there is a portrait of Osman Gazi wearing a grand turban and kaftan whilst holding a sword with his two hands. Interestingly, he is portrayed standing next to an imperial Ottoman mosque which could not have been constructed during his reign, thereby symbolically immortalising the ruler. The portrait is bordered by short descriptions of his rule and the Ottoman administration. In the cartouche beneath him it reads:
سلطان عثمان خان اول غازی
Sultan Osman Han-ı Evvel Gazi
(“Sultan Osman Khan the First, the Ghazi”)
The portrait is very similar to a hand-coloured mezzotint by the British printmaker John Young which was commissioned by Selim III in 1806. The Topkapı Palace had supplied Young with gouache portraits by an Ottoman Greek painter, Konstantin Kapıdağlı, to complete the mezzotint.1 Thereafter, upon seeing the finished piece, Selim III approved a larger project which would include the portraits of all the succeeding Ottoman sultans in one album. Although Young relied on Kapıdağlı’s portraits, there had been a long-standing court tradition of Ottoman imperial portrait albums. Indeed, the physiognomy and clothing of Osman Gazi would have relied heavily on miniature precedents found in Seyyid Lokman Çelebi’s Kıyafetü'l-İnsaniyye Fi Şema'ili'l-Osmaniyye (1579) and Abdulcelil Levni’s Kebir Musavver Silsilenâme (1703-30). Nonetheless, Kapıdağlı introduced the European pose of a standing ruler, rather than painting him seated; he also included texts around the central medallion – these two features are also present in Young’s work as well as in this textile.
By 1815, Young published his portraits of the Ottoman sultans commercially in Britain to recover his costs, for Selim III was deposed by the janissaries in 1807.2 These portraits began to reach a wider audience once they were reproduced as cartes de visite by the Ottoman Armenian photographers, the Abdullah Frères, in the 1860s.3 Indeed, the popularity of Young’s album at this time helps to date this textile to the mid-nineteenth century.
Around the textile’s portrait of Osman Gazi, there are cartouches with descriptions of the ruler’s life; in between these important dates, there are also numbered cartouches which describe important positions within the Ottoman administration. The numbered cartouches correspond to the numbered portraits in the ring of images around Osman Gazi’s portrait. From clockwise, starting at two o’clock, the Ottoman Turkish text reads:
١. صدر اعظم حضرتلری اشکالی
1. Sadr-ı Azam Hazretleri eşkalı
(“1. Image of His Excellence the Grand Vizier”)
تاریخ وفاتلری ٧٢٦
Tarih-i vefatları, 726
(“The date of his death, 726 (1326)”)
٤. بايراقدار آغا)لرك؟( اشکالی
4. Bayrakdar Ağa(ların?) eşkalı
("4. Image of the Bayrakdar Agha (Chief Standard Bearer)”)
ولادت ھمایونلری ٦٥٧
Veladet-i Hümayunları, 657
(“His imperial birth, 657 (1258)”)
٢. قپوجی آغ الرك اشكالى
2. Kapucı Ağaların eşkalı
(“2. Image of the Kapuci Agha (Chief Doorkeeper)”)
جلوس ھمایونلرى ٦٩٩
Cülus-ı Hümayunları, 699
(“His imperial accession, 699 (1299-1300)”)
٣. تبردار آغانك اشكالى
3. Teberdar Ağanın eşkalı
(“3. Image of the Teberdar Agha (Chief Axeman)”)
مدت سلطنتلرى ٢٧
Müddet-i saltanat, 27
(“Length of his sultanate, 27 (years)”)
In addition to commemorating Osman I’s reign, this textile is extremely symbolic for its use of felt, because felt-making is one of the oldest Turkish handicrafts which was brought to Anatolia in the eleventh century by the migrating Turks from Central Asia. Initially used by nomads to make tent coverings and clothes, the Ottoman Turks upheld this handicraft and introduced it throughout their expanding borders. Hence, from the late fourteenth century, when crafts and commerce expanded rapidly into the large towns of the Ottoman Balkans, textile and felt-making were new industries which thrived in the Muslim districts.4 Felt continued to be used throughout Ottoman society for centuries, from Ottoman officials wearing the fes headdress to shepherds wearing kepenek cloaks.
1 Mary Roberts. 2015. Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists, and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture. California: University of California Press. p.23.
2 Ibid. pp.30-31.
3 Ibid. p.33.
4 André Clot. 2012. Suleiman the Magnificent. London: Saqi.