Name of Object:

Tughra (imperial monogram)


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

About hegira 956 / AD 1550

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gouache and ink on paper.


Height 44.5 cm, width 57 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


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.

Original Owner:

Süleyman the Magnificent

How date and origin were established:

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.

How Object was obtained:

Donated by E. Beghian in 1949.

How provenance was established:

The tughra would have been inscribed and illuminated at the imperial court of Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul, Turkey.

Selected bibliography:

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.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Tughra (imperial monogram)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;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 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: UK1 69


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


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See also

Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail

EARLY OTTOMAN ART - Legacy of the Emirates


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