Published: September 18, 2012
The Textile Museum will present “The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art,” on view September 21⁍arch 10. The exhibition and its accompanying catalog chronicles how one of the world’s most powerful empires adopted a singular artistic style and how that style gained lasting influence in the region.
Just as the brands of today strive to do †from political candidates to consumer products †the Ottoman Empire represented itself at home and abroad through a single, instantly recognizable visual aesthetic. The stylized tulips, roses, carnations and other flowers came to embody the influence of the empire, and continue to epitomize the arts of Turkey. Through 58 works of art drawn from the best of the museum’s collections and private and institutional loans, “The Sultan’s Garden” reveals the lasting impact of this stylistic revolution.
Ottoman art reflects the wealth, abundance and influence of an empire that spanned seven centuries and, at its height, three continents. Ottoman court style developed during successions of sultans and changes in the court’s design workshop. Prior to 1550, Ottoman art had primarily employed an artistic language common to the greater Islamic world and frequently depicted geometrical designs, fantastical animals, and flora. Under Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (ruled 1520‱566), however, a single artist, Kara Memi, introduced a new design repertoire inspired by forms found in nature. The stylized tulips, carnations, hyacinths, honeysuckles, roses and rosebuds immediately gained popularity across a broad range of media, carrying connotations of Ottoman court patronage, luxury and high taste.
The floral style on view in “The Sultan’s Garden” has had a lasting impact over the past four centuries on the later Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey, the broader Islamic world and Europe. Court workshops exported luxury items to European customers whose own economies lacked either the technology, tradition or access to materials to produce such goods themselves.
Visitors to the exhibition will be surrounded by some of the most opulent and beautiful works of art created in the Islamic world. “The Sultan’s Garden” includes court costume, horse adornment, vestments, carpets, brocaded silks, velvets and furnishings from the Textile Museum. Additional choice pieces are drawn from private collections, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Two pieces of Iznik ceramics will be on view, demonstrating the cross-media impact of this movement.
The exhibition is co-curated by 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, and Sumru Belger Krody, senior curator for Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The Textile Museum. A 192-page, full-color catalog, The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art accompanies this exhibition.
The museum’s 40th annual fall symposium will explore Ottoman art October 12‱4. Titled “Ottoman by Design: Branding an Empire,” this symposium features lectures by leading scholars including exhibition co-curator Walter B. Denny.
The Textile Museum is at 2320 S Street, NW. For more information, www.textilemuseum.org or 202-667-0441.
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