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From Auspicious Ornament to State Symbol: The Crescent Moon in Ottoman Art and Architecture

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From Auspicious Ornament to State Symbol: The Crescent Moon in Ottoman Art and Architecture
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  Through Time MOON THE A Voyage Edited by Christiane Gruber  ext copyright © 2019 by Te Aga Khan MuseumImages and works o art copyright © 2019 by museums, galleries, and organizations as indicated.Published in conjunction with Te Moon: A Voyage Trough ime , an exhibition organized by the Aga Khan Museum and presented rom March 9 to August 18, 2019.All rights reserved. No part o this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any orm or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except brie passages or purposes o review), without the prior permission o the Aga Khan Museum. Permission to photocopy should be requested rom Access Copyright.First published in Canada in 2019 by Aga Khan Museum77 Wynord Driveoronto, OntarioM3C 1K1www.agakhanmuseum.orgEditor and Co-Curator: Christiane GruberProject Manager and Copy Editor: Michael CarrollPublications: Jovanna Scorsone, Education and Public Engagement Manager, Aga Khan MuseumCover and Interior Design: Te Swerve Design Group Inc.5 4 3 2 1 23 22 21 20 19 ISBN  978-1-926473-15-4 Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication itle: Te moon : a voyage through time / edited by Christiane Gruber.Other titles: Moon (oronto, Ont.)Names: Gruber, Christiane J., editor. | Aga Khan Museum (oronto, Ont.), host institution, publisher.Description: Catalogue o an exhibition held at the Aga Khan Museum rom March 9 to August 18, 2019. | Includes bibliographical reerences.Identifiers: Canadiana 20190055286 | ISBN 9781926473154 (sofcover)Subjects: LCSH: Islamic arts — Exhibitions. | LCSH: Islamic art and symbolism — Exhibitions. | LCSH: Islam and art — Exhibitions. | LCSH: Moon — In art — Exhibitions. | LCSH: Islamic literature — History and criticism. | LCSH: Moon — In literature. | LCSH: Islam and science. | LCGF: Exhibition catalogues.Classification: LCC NX688.A4 M66 2019 | DDC 709.17/671074713541 — dc23Printed in Canada  From Auspicious Ornament to State Symbol | 45 From Auspicious Ornament to State Symbol Te Crescent Moon in Ottoman Art and Architecture Ünver Rüstem  he star and crescent o urkey must rank among the most effective national symbols in the world, as recognizable as it is semiotically rich. Famous also or its association with the Islamic world at large, the crescent moon in particular has achieved iconic status as a religio-political emblem rooted in urkey’s Ottoman past (ca. 1299–1922). Yet the crescent’s place and meaning in Ottoman history are more complicated than modern perceptions may suggest, not least because the moti did not cement itsel as the state’s preerred insignia until the 1800s. Against this perhaps surprising background, the present essay considers the multiaceted role that the moon — especially in its crescent orm — played in the Ottoman Empire’s art and architecture, touching on its various illustrative, decorative, and symbolic uses as they developed and intersected over the centuries.As a highly conspicuous celestial body that looms large in the human experience, the moon maintained an important position in Ottoman visual, scientific, and popular culture. Its physical impact and metaphysical appeal made it an irresistible object o interest and inquiry, a ascination whose artistic aspect reveals itsel most directly in pictorial renderings o our world and the universe to which it belongs. Such images, which take the orm o paintings in illustrated manuscripts, range rom narrative and literary scenes set against the night sky to more complex depictions that explore the moon’s cosmological and astrological significance. 1  Although sometimes shown in its ull phase, the moon in these works more ofen appears as a crescent ( hilal  ), its most distinctive maniestation.Fine examples o this kind o imagery can be ound in the opening astrological section o the  Metali‘ü’s-sa‘ade ve menabi‘ü’s-siyade  (Ascension o Propitious Stars and the Sources o Sovereignty), a compendium o treatises that Sultan Murad III (r. 1574–1595) commissioned or his daughter, Ayşe Sultan (d. 1605), in about 1582 (see Cat. Nos. 31 and 33). 2  One o the book’s more striking paintings — dominated by a roundel showing a harp-playing Venus riding aurus — eatures at its base a personification o the moon, who, flanked by the figures o Mercury and Saturn, presents hersel to us as a seated woman with an upturned closed crescent raming her round ace (Fig. 1). 3  Mirroring the Fig. 1: Taurus Ridden by Venus, with Mercury, the Moon, and Saturn Below , artist(s) unknown, Metali‘ü’s-saʻade ve menabi‘ü’s-siyade , folio 9v, Istanbul, Ottoman lands, ca. 1582, opaque watercolour, ink, and gold on paper. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, purchased from Demotte and Company, 1935, MS M.788.  46 | HE MOON — A Voyage Trough ime manuscript’s text, which is translated rom an older Arabic source, this iconography draws on much earlier Islamic models, themselves rooted in the long-established poetic and pictorial trope o the moon-aced beauty. 4  Te conflation o emale and lunar qualities here takes on greater resonance in light o the book’s dedication, where Ayşe Sultan is dubbed “in sublimity higher than the Sun and Moon.” 5  As this praise suggests, and as the zodiacal content o the painting and its accompanying text makes clear, the moon was much more to the Ottomans than a thing o visual splendour; it was also reckoned among the most influential — and auspicious — orces governing human ate, and it is notable in this regard that the final part o the  Metali‘ is dedicated to ortune-telling. 6 Tese powerul associations with beauty and prosperity were by no means unique to the Ottomans, whose lunar interests were (and remain) shared across the world’s cultures, Islamic and non-Islamic alike. 7  What makes the Ottoman case remarkable, however, is the sheer extent to which the crescent moon flourished as an artistic device beyond the illustrative realm. At once simple and arresting, the shape ound widespread application in the arts o the object, where it unctioned not only as a versatile and inherently attractive design element but also as an allusion to the moon’s welcome bearing on human affairs. Te crescent had thus emerged by the seventeenth century as a avoured moti or brocaded velvet cushion covers, usually occurring as a bold repeat pattern and sometimes urther multiplied to orm sets o nested sickles, with floral designs always part o the mix. 8  In one particularly beautiul example o the nested type, the largest crescents — executed in silver and gilt thread on a red ground — contain vines issuing stylized tulips (Fig. 2). 9  With their offset circular cores, the cushion’s crescent groupings each give the effect o a nazar  , the amous eye-shaped amulet descended rom ancient Mediterranean tradition and still used throughout the lands o the ormer Ottoman Empire to ward off the evil eye. 10  Tat the crescent shape itsel had also long served as a regional talisman strengthens this apotropaic connection. 11  Providing an additional layer o meaning is the design’s incorporation o the tulip, another beloved Ottoman moti that, together with images o flowers more generally, may well have carried connotations o paradise. 12  Tis evocative floral component harmonizes aptly with the dominant lunar pattern, and the two themes are ully amalgamated along the cushion’s arcaded borders, where rows o downturned crescents — each crowned with a tuf resembling the calyx o a pomegranate — grow like rosebuds rom stems flanked by tulips. 13 Widely acquired among the upper classes, such cushion covers afforded a luxurious yet practical medium by which to bring lunar and other avourable motis into the homes o well-to-do Ottomans. 14  Clothing, too, secured the moon’s place in the iconography o elite lie, as exemplified by a seventeenth-century royal cafan whose crimson silk surace bears strikingly large gold-thread appliqués o nested crescents alternating with tulip silhouettes (Fig. 3). 15  Tis sumptuous garment would have rendered its wearer Fig. 2: Cushion cover decorated with nested crescents and tulips, Bursa or Istanbul, Ottoman lands, ca. 1625–1650, voided and brocaded silk velvet, gilt- and silver-metal thread, and cotton. The Cleveland Museum of Art, purchase from the J.H. Wade Fund, 2009.282.  From Auspicious Ornament to State Symbol | 47 both an impressive sight and a living embodiment o good ortune, combining the moon’s positive symbolism with the tulip’s paradisaical redolence.Other silk and velvet items display crescents in triangular sets o three together with pairs o wavy stripes. 16  Tis curious design is a distinctly Ottoman take on a more widespread triple-ball pattern that art historians have dubbed chintamani  in reerence to its presumed (though doubtul) Buddhist srcins. Most likely a Central Asian talismanic composition based on spotted animal skins, the chintamani moti underwent several elaborations in Ottoman art, where the three balls — besides being joined by waves resembling tiger stripes — assumed a number o guises: in some cases lef as solid circles, they also (and perhaps more usually) appear as closed or open crescents, as i to redouble the srcinal design’s auspicious properties. 17  Examples o this crescent- chintamani  hybrid can be ound in a range o media, including polychrome tiles made in the renowned actories o Iznik during the second hal o the sixteenth century. One such tile recalls the cushion cover discussed above, with each chintamani “ball” ashioned out o nested crescents that enclose a small circle, an arrangement that might also be read as three chintamani  balls placed one within the other (Fig. 4). 18  Te design’s colour scheme — dark red inside turquoise inside white on a cobalt ground — here makes the resemblance to the nazar   unmissable, though the trilobed red ornament affi xed to each outermost crescent is more diffi cult to interpret. As its oblong shape tells us, the tile once belonged to a repeating border pattern that probably ramed an expanse o floral tilework within a mosque or palace, settings that warranted decoration as propitious as it was beautiul. 19 A more blatant invocation o the moon’s beneficial orce is at play in banners ( sancak s) that were carried into battle or on the pilgrimage to Mecca. Shaped like pentagonal shields and typically made o brocaded red, green, or white silk, these flags bear Qur’anic and other religious inscriptions together with a variety o recurrent motis that more ofen than not include the crescent moon. 20  It is no accident that analogous designs were used or both warare and pilgrimage: the Ottoman sultans ramed their military exploits as holy endeavours that advanced the cause o Sunni Islam, a claim bolstered in the sixteenth century by their assumption o the caliphate and acquisition o the holy cities o Mecca and Medina. 21  Such banners thus demand to be understood as religio-political statements whose ornamentation must have carried a semantic charge that built on — and went beyond — its more generically talismanic import.Tere is, however, no obvious ideological significance to the banners’ incorporation o the crescent, whose variability rom piece to piece urther complicates the issue. Although sometimes granted pride o place in the design, the moti is more usually subordinated to depictions o Dhu’l-Fiqar, the legendary biurcated sword that the Prophet Muhammad is supposed to have given to his son-in- Fig. 3: Royal caftan with appliqué nested crescents and tulips, traditionally associated with Sultan Süleyman II (r. 1687–1691), probably Istanbul, Ottoman lands, seventeenth century, silk, cotton, gold thread, and silk gauze. Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul, 13/514.Fig. 4: Tile with chintamani   (ball-and-stripe) decoration, Iznik, Ottoman lands, 1560–1590, fritware, polychrome underglaze painted. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 425-1900.
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