ottoman calligraphy


Calligraphic Galleon

Calligrapher:  'Abd al-Qadir Hisari

Illustrated single work

dated A.H. 1180/ A.D. 1766–67

Geography:  Made in Turkey

Culture:  Islamic

Medium: Ink and gold on paper

Dimensions:  H. 19 in. (48.3 cm) W. 17 in. (43.2 cm)

Credit Line:  Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 2003

Accession Number:  2003.241

The hull of this sailing ship comprises the names of the Seven Sleepers and their dog. The tale of the Seven Sleepers, found in pre-Islamic Christian sources, concerns a group of men who sleep for centuries within a cave, protected by God from religious persecution. Both hadith (sayings of the Prophet), and tafsir (commentaries on the Qur'an) suggest that these verses from the Qur'an have protective qualities.

Flanked by two other galleons on the horizon, this carefully drawn imperial calligraphic galleon sits on a row of waves containing aphorisms. The imperial galleon with its wind-filled sails is an example of the sophistication of the Ottoman calligraphic tradition. The distinctive Ottoman imperial insignia (tughra), located on the stern of the square galley, dedicates the drawing to Sultan Mustafa bin Sultan Ahmed III (r. 1757–74) (38.149.1). The prow, deck, hull, and stern of the galleon are a calligram (an image made out of calligraphic phrases). It contains the names of the seven sleepers of Ephesus and their dog Qitmir (35.64.3). The standard on the stern of the boat contains the apotropaic Throne verse (2:255) from the Qur'an. The combination of Qur'anic verse and the names of prophets, saints, and heroes found in the Qur'an endows this calligram with amuletic, auspicious, and talismanic powers. In the sky, like a sun disk, the dated signature of the calligrapher reads: Abdu'l Qadir al-Hisari in Aksehir in A.H. 1180 / 1766 A.D. The frame is composed of Ottoman Turkish poetry venerating the Prophet Muhammad.

Kufic Script Arranged to Represent a Sailing Ship

Ottoman, probably 19th century
Falsely attributed to Hafiz Othman

Object Place: Turkey
Dimensions: Height x Width: 36 x 50.5cm (14 3/16 x 19 7/8in.) Framed: 57.8 x 73 cm (22 ¾ x 28 ¾ in.)
Medium or Technique: Ink on pape
Accession Number: 15.125, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Description and image from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:  "Inscription - Upper right corner of the page: basmalla. Body of ship is first half of Sura 41 verse 11. Second half of verse appears in upper left corner of page. To left of ship, in medallion: “sketch of the ark of our prophet Noah and upon him be peace” Along bottom of page: poem that discusses the transitory nature of life. At left, artist’s signature.

Provenance: By 1913, with Dr. Denman Waldo Ross (b. 1853 - d. 1935), Cambridge, MA; 1915, gift of Ross to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 7, 1915) Credit Line: Denman Waldo Ross Collection"


they all mean the same thing…just different style of calligraphy… roughly means “and we made from the water everything that is alive/ living”

(The Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque (Bosnian: Gazi Husrev-begova Džamija, Turkish: Gazi Hüsrev Bey Camii), is a mosque in the city of Sarajevo,Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is considered the most important Islamic structure in the country and one of the world’s finest examples of Ottoman architecture.)

Circirli Ali Efendi (Mehmed Ali Efendi), Levha, c. 1880, Istanbul, Turkey.

The text of this levha is an Ottoman Turkish poem:

  "I held fast to the skirt of purity

and God’s pleasure forever.

  I embraced the dust of the

Prophet’s feet forever.

  Perplexed and powerless was my

response to the unexpected.

  I found shelter in the court of

  God’s grace forever.“

(Image from Letters in Gold: Ottoman Calligraphy from the Sakip Sabanci Collection, Istanbul by M. Ugur Derman)