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Islamic Art of Illumination: Classical Tazhib from Ottoman to Contemporary Times

by Sema Onat

An amazing mixture of classical Islamic illumination patterns and their contemporary interpretations with stylized and naturalistic floral and geometrical motifs

: Aug 21, 2015 • 180 Pages • 22 x 24 • ISBN 9781935295822
: Art & Photography, Bestsellers, History,
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Islamic Art of Illumination presents an amazing mixture of classical Turkish illumination patterns and their contemporary interpretations. It illustrates how illumination was applied to various articles during the Ottoman period, including pictures, royal edicts and insignia, tiles, chests, gun holsters, shields, and even costumes prepared for the Sultan and his family. It also shows how today illumination has extensively been applied on architectural surfaces, book covers, manuscripts, carpets, textiles, ceramics, glass and wood panels, and metal works.

The author, a contemporary illumination artist, displays her incredible pieces of art, skillfully swirling her imagination together with classical Turkish Islamic patterns of illumination. In richly illuminated designs using motifs such as buds and roses, as well as stylized and naturalistic flowers, she exhibits all of the geometrical, foliate, and floral patterns used in the art. She also takes a closer look at making illumination designs and
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Part One
A Short History of Turkish Illumination Art43
Prominent Artists in the Art of Illumination51
Modern Period Artists54
Part Two
Different Schools of Illumination Art57
A. Halkar (Gilding) Style58
B. Sazyolu (Reed) Style60
C. Turkish Rococo64
D. Classic Illumination66
Part Three
Motifs and Figures Used in Illumination69
A. Leaves70
B. Stems72
C. Gonca (Bud)73
D. Khatai (Floral Motif)75
E. Panch (Foliation with Five Cusps or Points)76
F. Spirals77
G. Bulut (Cloud) Motifs78
H. Rumi80
I. Geometric Motifs93
J. Munhani (Curved) Motifs94
K. Shukufa (Naturalist Flower) Style Motifs95
L. Zarafshan (Scattering Gold)96
M. Tigh (Needle-pointed) Motif96
N. Karamemi97
Part Four
Materials Used in Illumination99
Part Five
Making Illumination111
A. Drawing Efforts113
B. Composition Rules and Making the Design
in Classic Ornamentation Arts124
C. Transferring the Design143
D. Painting the Design144
Part Six
General Forms Used in Illumination147
A. Shamsa148
B. Hilya151
C. Kit’a152
D. Ottoman Ferman (Edict)155
Part Seven
Manuscript Illumination159
Areas in Manuscripts Ornamented with Illumination161

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Ambitious in its scope, ‘The Islamic Art of Illumination’ offers a broad introduction to Ottoman manuscript illumination, encompassing historical and stylistic aspects, as well as practical elements to this beautiful craft. The book is lavishly illustrated with images drawing parallels between the art of illumination, and wider Ottoman arts such as textiles, metalwork, weaponry, and interior design. Paintings and drawings by the author and other contemporary illuminators also grace the pages of this book, reinforcing the notion of illumination as a “living traditional art”, passed down from Master to apprentice over time.

This book provides a comprehensive overview of the key historical and practical aspects to the art of illumination. However, intermediate and advanced practitioners of the art may find that practical information lacks depth in places. A few of the contemporary illumination examples might be improved by cleaner line work, and the occasional use of vignette makes it difficult to see key artwork details. Translation from Turkish to English is convoluted in places. Nonetheless, ‘The Islamic Art of Illumination’ is a rare resource for English-speaking practitioners of the art. Its insights into historical and stylistic context, the spiritual significance of the craft, practical application, and its impact upon wider Ottoman arts, will appeal to all admirers of Islamic art, and enrich the practice of contemporary artists and illuminators.

Review by Ayesha Gamiet, Artist, Illustrator and Art Educator
MEd (Art, Creativity, Education and Culture), University of Cambridge
MA (Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts), The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts

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Sema Onat
Sema Onat

Trained for many long years in the art of Turkish illumination on the subjects of drawing techniques, flower motifs, designmaking and miniature, Sema Onat completed her specialty courses in 2009 and received her illumination diploma. The artist continues to give illumination lessons in her workshops located in Bahcelievler and Esenyurt in Istanbul, and she continues executing project and exhibition works with her students. With her works in many private collections, Onat is a culture ministry artist who has participated in many domestic and foreign exhibitions and she has received various awards.