Türk Tezhib Sanati
The various disciplines associated with the manuscript, such as calligraphy,
binding, and the painting of miniatures, have in Türkiye traditionally
been crowned by the splendour of illumination.
The embellishments in albums and manuscripts, whether done in paint or gilt,
are all defined as illumination, the word for which in Turkish, tezhib
,comes from Arabic and means literally "gilding" or "begolding
". The art uses more all-inclusive means, however: vegetable dyes, metal
oxides, earth-based color dyes and powdered stones of various colors being
added to sizing.
Among the favorite sites for illumination are the end sheet known as the
zahriye which precedes the text in manuscripts; the final section
called the hatim; the title; the heading of a chapter or verse in the
Koran, or the end of a verse; and in some cases all the margins of a highly
It is of paramount importance in the art of illumination that the various motifs used should make a harmonious whole. The dominant motifs should be set off
nicely by the subsidiary ones, while special attention is payed to how much of
a page is illuminated and how much left bare. A minor type of motif known as
tig, with a dart-like tip pointing outward from the design, is used to
smooth the transition from the illumination to the blank margin. Literally
hundreds of tig styles were employed at various times in history, but all of
them taper to a point in some fashion.
To begin the process of illumination a desing is first prepared. On a firm
surface it is pinned to the appropriate spot on the text. It is then pounced
with charcoal powder, and with a single-haired brush the pounce is worked
into a design.
Once the design is on the paper a brush is used to apply gilt which is then
rubbed smooth. Colors are afterward inked in, and a black contour outline
drawn using a superfine brush. A typical glowingly gilt surface may be obtained
by pricking the gold surface overall with a dull-pointed needle.
To give certain inks or gilt a raised appearance a white paint mixed with egg
yolk is first applied to the paper and allowed to dry. Only then is the gilt
or ink put on.
Illumination done strictly in gold has a special name,halkar.
Crushed gold is mixed with a solution of gelatin and water, then applied with a brush.
Illuminated title from the 16th century
The motifs which have been most often employed in illumination are runi,
consisting of stylized wings, beaks and legs of birds and animals;
munhani, serried curves popular with the Selcuks;hatayi,
which are stylized floral motifs; and bulut or clouds, a swirled
effect of Chinese origin.
Like many Turkish arts of traditional origin, illumination depends on the skills
of a number of craftsmen working together to create a finished product. When
the calligrapher is done writing the body of the work, it is the turn of the
cedvelkes to rule the margins in gold, or black or red ink. Then
master and apprentices pounce the design worked up by the illuminator, who
then does the actual drawing of the illumination, alone or with colleagues.
All this would be carried out in a special room ath the palace, or in the
studio of a great illuminator.
As early as the 13th century, in the time of the Anatolian Selcuks and in the
period of the Beyliks, a style of illumination grew up in Konya which was rich
yet spare and measured. As practiced by artists of the Selcuk court, it
featured interlacing geometric patterns embellished with speckles, stars or
leaf-like motifs. The upper or lower border of the page carried series of black,
interlinked hook motifs on a gold background. Around a circular medallion
would be worked the munhani designs mentioned above. Colors were
mainly gold, dark blue, white and reddish brown. The tig is either
absent or in the form of restrained thin blue lines.
The style of the 15th century favored two open leaves, the zahriye, each with
a medallion; one contained the dedication to the sultan
(Mehmet the Conqueror) and the other the name of the book and its author.
Unlike the round Selcuk medallions, those of the latter 15th century were
Index from a 16th century text. Headings are written in white on gold.
In the 16th century the art of illumination in Türkiye reached its zenith.
The wealth of motifs, colors and compositions, the perfection of technique, the variety and subtlety of designs, the generaous use of gold in harmony with
accompanying colors on the blue background, are features which unite the
illumination of this age. The range of tig strokes also broadened,
and the addition to them of rumi motifs could make for highly elegant
effects. Toward the end of the century we even see floral patterns in the
The early 17th century in this art is so to speak a continuation of the latter
16th, but as this century wore on there were ever greater lardings of gold.
Needle stippling on a gold background of this time.
The 18th century saw the classic art of illumination move toward ornateness
built around large floral motifs and intricate embellishment, with even the
tig borders being marred by overblown gaudy flowers. Baroque and
Roccoco found their way into the art, as ribbons, life-like branches, leaves
and overindulgence in general became the rule. Among ther additions to the
illuminator's lexicon were flowers singly or in buquets, with or without a vase
to contain them, for which style the generic name is sukufe.
With the 19th century a decline set in, lack of interest reducing the ranks of
the illustrators to a handful. Today there are courses offered in various
universities, as weel as at the Topkapi Palace and the Cerrahpasa Institute
of Medical History, through which the art is kept from dying out.