Name of Object:

Siyer-i Nebi (‘Biography of the Prophet’)


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Original Owner:

The original owner is unknown, but a seal belonging to the wife of Sultan Mahmud II, Pertevniyal Valide Sultan (d. AH 1300 /AD 1883; queen mother from AH 1277–92 / AD 1861–76), bearing the date AH 1279 / AD 1862–63, is found on pages 1a and 545a

Date of Object:

mid hegira 11th century / AD 17th century

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

illuminator: Sayyid Süleyman Kasım Pasha.

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Finished (aharlı) paper, black ink, watercolour, gilding, leather (binding).


Height 38 cm, width 26 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The work is written in Turkish on delicate finished (aharlı) paper using 13 lines per page of large naskhi script. The text is written within gilded margins in black ink; proper names are written in red ink. The areas between the lines of text are filled with gilding whose edges are traced in black. The six-volume Siyer-i Nebi or 'Biography of the Prophet' tells of the life of the Prophet Muhammad and of the history of Islam up until his death. The volume in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a copy of the fourth volume and has 545 folios. A total of 193 miniatures depict the subjects within. The first page, an illuminated title page, is decorated with gilding. On those pages with miniatures, the painting is situated between the top and bottom two lines of text. The volume's brown leather binding is adorned with an oval medallion with palmette pendants and corner-pieces.

The fourth volume begins with the birth of the Prophet's daughter, Fatima, and goes on to describe her marriage to 'Ali; the miracles of Muhammad; the love of Talha and Gamza; tales of heroic Muslim women; the preparation for the battle of Badr and the battle itself; Muhammad's wounding at the battle of Uhud; the death of the Prophet's uncle Hamza; the distribution of the spoils of war; the story of Ka'b and his daughter; and the killing of the Muslims' enemy, Sufyan ibn Khalid.

Siyer-i Nebi was prepared in six volumes by the palace atelier at the behest of Sultan Murad III in the AH 10th / AD 16th century. Today one volume is lost, while the others are dispersed in libraries around the world. The manuscript in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a copy (made in the AH 11th- / AD 17th-century) of a manuscript of the fourth volume of Siyer-i Nebi in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, (T. 419). The miniatures are stylistically typical of the period.

View Short Description

This AH 11th- / AD 17th-century copy of Siyer-i Nebi, literally 'Life of the Prophet', has an important place in Ottoman art not only because of subject but also because of its binding, the figurative style of its miniatures, and its architectural compositions.

How date and origin were established:

The style of the miniatures is characteristic of the 11th / 17th century.

How Object was obtained:

The manuscript was transferred to the Museum in 1334 / 1916 from the library of the complex in Aksaray (Istanbul) founded by the wife of Sultan Mahmud II and mother of Sultan Abdülaziz I ('Abd al-'Aziz), Pertevniyal Valide Sultan (d. AH 1300 /AD 1883; queen mother from AH 1277–92 / AD 1861–76).

How provenance was established:

Manuscripts of this quality and cost can only have been made in the palace atelier.

Selected bibliography:

çığ, K., “Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi'ndeki Minyatürlü Kitapların Kataloğu”, Şarkiyat Mecmuası, III (1959), pp.51–90.

Tanındı, Z., Siyer-i Nebi. İslam Resim Sanatında Hazreti Muhammed'in Hayatı, Istanbul 1984, pp.156–9.

ölçer, N., et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.292–5.

Citation of this web page:

Sevgi Kutluay "Siyer-i Nebi (‘Biography of the Prophet’)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;tr;Mus01;30;en

Prepared by: Sevgi KutluaySevgi Kutluay

Sevgi Kutluay is the Head of the Calligraphy and Manuscripts Section at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. She graduated from the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Hacettepe University, Ankara, in 1985 with the thesis “The Complexes of Kayseri Huand Hatun and Afşin Eshab-ı Kehf and the Development of Complexes in the Anatolian Seljuq Period”. She completed her Master's at the same department with a thesis entitled “Divriği Great Mosque and Its Decorative Programme” in 1989. She started working at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 1988 and has worked as an expert at various museums and departments of the ministry. She quit her Ph.D. entitled “The Diwan of Hüseyin Baykara and the 15th Century Manuscripts of Herat”. She participated in restoration projects on the wall paintings of Göreme Dark Church and Sumela Monastery in Trabzon and in the display designs of various museums.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 56


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