Tughra (imperial monogram)
London, England, United Kingdom
The British Museum
About hegira 956 / AD 1550
Gouache and ink on paper.
Height 44.5 cm, width 57 cm
Written in pen and illuminated in gouache, this is the tughra (imperial monogram) of Suleyman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–73 / AD 1520–66). Tughras were used on documents, or firmans (commands) which were issued by the Diwan (Council of State). This example bears the Sultan’s name, Suleyman Shah, and that of his father, Selim, and the phrase ‘the one who is always victorious’. Within the widest loop, formed by the Han (Title), is an intricate illuminated design. Painted in black and gold are fine floral spirals set against a ground of minute cloud-scrolls. The inner loop is filled with split-palmette scrolls and florets. Further floral- and cloud-scrolls fill the space between the ascending parts of the letters. The spiral design is also found on underglaze painted ceramics. The practice of illuminating the tughra was established by the ruler Bayazid II (d. AH 917/ AD 1512), under Suleyman they became ever more elaborate. The subject of the document to which this tughra was attached is not known.View Short Description
This copy of the tughra, or imperial monogram, of Süleyman the Magnificent is written in black pen. Contained within the curves and lines of the letters are delicate illuminated designs of floral spirals in black and gold.
Süleyman the Magnificent
This is the tughra of Suleyman the Magnificent (r. 926–73 / 1520–66). Due to the type of illumination employed this particular example probably dates to about 956 / 1550.
Donated by E. Beghian in 1949.
The tughra would have been inscribed and illuminated at the imperial court of Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul, Turkey.
Porter, V., Mightier than the Sword – Arabic Script: Beauty and Meaning, Malaysia, exhibition catalogue, 2004, pp.190–1, cat. no. 92.
Rogers, J. M., Islamic Art and Design 1500–1700, London, 1993, pp.45–6, cat. no. 32.
Emily Shovelton "Tughra (imperial monogram)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;50;en
Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton
Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK1 69
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Arabic Calligraphy | Calligraphic Schools The Ottomans | Court Life
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