'Us' in the eyes of the Turks : Europe and the Europeans in Ottoman illustrated manuscripts of the 16th century
Source document: Opuscula historiae artium. 2016, vol. 65, iss. 1, pp. 2-17
ISSN1211-7390 (print)2336-4467 (online)
License: Not specified license
The Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power and its cultural zenith in the 16th century and its territorial expansion was also at its vastest then, and this called to be duly reflected in the field of art. One outcome of this was the rise of a new literary genre, şehnâme, Ottoman illustrated history, which as a tool of imperial ideology served primarily a documentary and representative functions. When Sultan Süleymân (1494–1566) I turned the attention of his territorial expansion in the direction of Europe, the illustrations in Ottoman şehnâmes began to be filed with depictions of Europeans, their cities, and historical events associated with them. The best-known example is the manuscript Süleymânnâme (The Book of Süleymân), which describes in panegyric verse accompanied by numerous illustrations Süleymân's military victories at Belgrade, Mohács, and Rhodes. Alongside images of battles and conquests, however, the manuscripts also contain depictions of European envoys, Europeans participating in Ottoman festivities, and topographical depictions of European cities. Occasionally there are also illustrations for texts describing world history, and particular interest was aroused by the descriptions of the New World, where Europeans appear as discoverers. The depictions of Europeans, summarily referred to by the Ottomans as 'Firengler' or Franks, employ numerous stereotypes. The Turkish notion of Europeans in the 16th century in this respect is on a par with the European view of the Turks, and reveals many parallels with later European Orientalism.