Page 1

September 21, 2012–March 10, 2013

The Sultan’s Garden ttoman art reflects the wealth, abundance, and influence of an Empire that spanned seven centuries, and at its height, three continents. During the past six decades the concept of an Ottoman court style has emerged both in art historical scholarship and in the popular imagination, given tangible form through publications and museum exhibitions, tourism and its promotion, and through the rising popularity of Ottoman art on the international art market. What many have termed the ‘classical’ Ottoman court style or the ‘floral’ style is characterized above all by the vocabulary of highly distinctive, stylized, yet easily recognizable garden flowers—in particular, tulips, carnations, hyacinths, rosebuds and honeysuckles—that are frequently depicted in virtually all artistic media produced in the Ottoman Empire after the mid-sixteenth century. This style extended beyond the courtly sphere to the village and nomadic weaving traditions of Anatolia and the Ottoman world of the eastern Mediterranean, as well as to artistic traditions beyond the borders of the Ottoman Empire. The textile arts, some of the most luxurious and technically complex products of the Empire, are a valuable source by which to trace the emergence of this design vocabulary and its subsequent diffusion and impact on the larger Ottoman world.

Beginning in the mid-sixteenth century... stylized flowers began to appear throughout the arts of the Ottoman court. Above: Small ‘Kara Memi’ carpet (detail); probably Karapınar district, Konya Province, south-central Anatolia; probably 18th century; The Textile Museum R34.00.1; acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1949

Emergence of the Floral Style


here did these floral forms originate? Flowers played an important role in ornament

employed by fifteenth-century Ottoman artists, although the vocabulary of forms

was derived from traditional Islamic and Chinese sources. In the following century, the

Ottoman court’s artistic establishment was in flux, experiencing a period of rapid change and stylistic experimentation. Artists from Iran, Egypt, and Europe joined artists from Anatolia in Istanbul, and the art forms of this period reveal a complex situation of swift stylistic changes and the use of multiple styles side by side. As for textiles, the major production up to this time centered on Bursa, where traditional layouts and motifs, such as the popular and talismanic çintemani (a motif consisting of three spots and pairs of wavy stripes), dominated production. Artistically, the situation was complex, even chaotic. Beginning in the mid-sixteenth century, however, stylized flowers began to appear throughout the arts of the Ottoman court. Incredibly, the first manifestations of this new style can be reliably attributed to a single artist working in the royal design workshop of Istanbul: Kara Memi. As he progressed from staff artist to chief court designer during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566), he introduced a new design style inspired by forms found in nature. Kara Memi’s new repertoire of familiar and recognizable garden flowers quickly appeared in all the major artistic media patronized by the Ottoman court: manuscript illumination, architectural decorations, ceramic objects, metalware, and luxury textiles. Local industries quickly embraced this design vocabulary. For example, the production of silk

kemha (lampas) fabrics in Istanbul was ideally suited to the new floral style. Kemha weavers could use a very wide range of colors in highly detailed textile designs. The bright colors of Iznik ceramics also helped to popularize the floral style both in tile decorations for royal buildings and in tableware sold in the bazaar, encouraging its widespread diffusion. Below left Fragment of a kemha (detail); Istanbul; third quarter 16th century; The Textile Museum 1.68B; acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1952. Below rightt: Fragment of serenk from a costume (detail); probably Istanbul; late 16th century; The Textile Museum 1.57; acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1951.

Impact and Legacy of the Floral Style


he floral style was initially a court-centered phenomenon with specific dynastic associations; it developed as a self-conscious means of establishing an Ottoman cultural

identity—in a sense, an Ottoman brand. However, in the centuries following its inception, the style had a profound impact on a broad spectrum of Anatolian and European artistic production. Quickly spreading to the various provincial artistic centers that produced court-inspired luxury goods, the floral style was available in an expanding commercial market both within and beyond the Empire. For the wealthy urban population, it carried connotations of tradition, court patronage,

Above: Cap; Damascus or Aleppo, Syria; Around 1800; Private Collection

luxury, and high taste. Ottoman blossoms eventually penetrated the traditional, long-established, and highly varied artistic traditions of villages and nomadic encampments, where carpets and textiles woven of wool were the primary vehicles of artistic expression. Existing alongside earlier weaving traditions originating in the nomadic past, such textiles demonstrate the extraordinary variety and richness of traditional textile art in Anatolia. Beyond the Empire’s borders, Ottoman works of art sold in European markets ranged from hundreds of carpets to the myriad of Orthodox and Catholic ecclesiastical vestments crafted from Ottoman silk. Ottoman textiles even made their way to the Safavid and Mughal courts of Iran and India. The transmission of artistic ideas through such works of art left a significant impact on artistic production of these countries. While the floral style may have become popular due to its association with political power, it remained popular for centuries largely because of its artistic merits. Its art forms were colorful, powerful in visual impact, attractive to look at, and adaptable to a variety of cultural preferences. Above all, they were available, for a high but affordable price, in considerable quantities in the international marketplace.

regardless of what military power may bring an empire in terms of pomp and glory, a broader view of human accomplishment reminds us that historical memory of any political entity will ultimately reside in its visual arts. The floral style that appeared in the mid-sixteenth century remains perhaps the most memorable, influential, and attractive legacy of the mighty empire of the Ottoman Sultans. Ephemeral though they may have been, the flowers of their gardens live on in eternal beauty in the colorful and evocative ceramics, carpets, kilims, silks, velvets, and needlework of the Ottoman artistic tradition.

Visitor Information Location


2320 S Street, NW, in Washington, D.C.’s historic

The Textile Museum is wheelchair accessible. Please

Dupont-Kalorama neighborhood.

call (202) 667-0441, ext. 35 for more information.



Red Line, Dupont Circle, Q Street Exit.

Members of The Textile Museum enjoy many

Museum and Shop Hours Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays, federal holidays and December 24. Arthur D. Jenkins Library Reading Room Hours Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday 12 to 4 p.m. Admission

benefits: a 10% TM Shop discount, the quarterly Members’ Magazine, special rates for programs, and invitations to opening receptions. Visit or call (202) 667-0441, ext. 17. Support The Textile Museum As a private institution, The Textile Museum relies on support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and grants to sustain its edu-

Suggested donation of $8 for non-members.

cational programs, exhibitions, collections'

Public Programs

Lectures presented in conjunction with The Sultan's Garden are offered in partnership with the American Friends of Turkey and through support from the Turkish Cultural Foundation. For the most up-to-date list of Textile Museum programs, pick up our quarterly calendar in the lobby or visit

care, and scholarship. To make a donation visit

Stay in Touch For more information, visit where you can sign up for our eFriends newsletter and learn about upcoming events. / TextileMuseum @TextileMuseum

Tours Highlights Tours, offered each Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m., feature selections from the different exhibitions on view. No reservations are required.

/ TextileMuseum

To schedule a docent-led tour for groups of six to forty people, call (202) 667-0441, ext. 65 at least four weeks in advance. Museum Shop

Support for The Sultan’s Garden is made possible in part by the following:

The Textile Museum Shop—hailed as one of

Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne • Bruce P. and

Washington, D.C.’s best museum stores—offers a

Olive W. Baganz • The Coby Foundation, Ltd.

unique array of handmade textiles, jewelry, books, gifts, and other merchandise created by contemporary textile artists from around the world. For more information, call (202) 667-0441, ext. 29; shop online anytime at

Sylvia Bergstrom and Joe Rothstein • BHP Billiton Petroleum • Walter B. Denny and Alice Robbins • Alastair and Kathy Dunn • Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Richard H. Brown and Mary Jo Otsea • Vinay and Shonu Pande • Peruvian Connection • Roger S. and Claire Pratt

2320 S St, NW, Washington, DC 20008


(202) 667-0441 ©The Textile Museum

Curators: Walter B. Denny, Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Charles Grant Ellis Research Associate in Oriental Carpets at The Textile Museum Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The Textile Museum For more detailed discussions of the subjects touched upon in this brochure, see the exhibition catalog The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art by Walter B. Denny and Sumru Belger Krody (The Textile Museum, Washington, DC, 2012).

Below top: Fragment of court carpet; probably Cairo, Egypt; second half of the 16th century; The Textile Museum R16.4.6; acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1952

Below center: Fragment of kemha; Istanbul; first half 17th century; The Textile Museum 1994.27.3; gift of Neutrogena Corporation

Below bottom: Velvet cover; Bursa or Istanbul; late 16th -early 17th century; The Textile Museum 1.55; acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1951

The Sultan's Garden - Gallery Guide  

Guide to the exhibition The Sultan's Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you