The Ottoman Renaissance 1413-1575

Discover the development of the Ottoman mosque and monumental tomb architecture, as well as other decorative arts such as Iznik ceramics and calligraphy. We also look at several contemporary discussions of architecture and its intersection with both state ideology and cultural identity.

The Ottoman Renaissance is a topic of considerable originality, and one that contributes to a growing body of scholarship, cutting across multiple disciplines of the humanities. It seeks to expand the conceptual definition of “The Renaissance” in ways that include the artistic and cultural traditions of non-European societies during the early modern period.


  • Inalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600, London: Orion Publishing Co., 2001.
  • MacClean, Gerald, ed. Re-Orienting the Renaissance: Cultural Exchanges With the East, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Shaw, Stanford J. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire 1280-1808 Volume 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


  • Introduction – The Renaissance Paradigm: This session focuses on defining the “Renaissance” from traditionalist pan-European and Ottoman perspectives. Number of sources will be discussed from both Western and Turkish historians to help define what we mean by the term ‘Renaissance’.
  • The Links to the Past: This session focuses on the Timurid-Persian-Turkic-Islamic and Roman/Byzantine influences on Ottoman art and architecture in the 15th century. This will cover the Ottomans' reliance on their inherited Islamic and Greco-Roman past to stage their ‘renaissance’. The patronages of Sultan Mehmed I (d.1421) and Sultan Mehmed II (d.1481) will be closely studied.
  • Surpassing the Past – Ottoman Architecture: Ottoman monumental architecture by Mimar Sinan (Ottoman imperial architect, d.1588) will be the focus here – the Süleymaniye (1557) and Selimiye Mosques (1575). Closely analysing these two structures the students will see how the Byzantine/Roman Hagia Sophia inspired Sinan’s work. However, rather than imitating the past, Sinan demonstrates through his autobiographies that he excelled and surpassed the past, like his counterparts in Renaissance Italy, by creating structures that embody distinctive Ottoman Renaissance features and aesthetics.
  • Word of God, art of Man: The focus for this lecture will be the art of 16th century Iznik ceramic tiles that were used for decorative aesthetics in mosques, palaces and tombs. This lecture will focus on the specific mosque by Sinan – the Rustem Pasha Mosque – one where its interior is totally covered with glistening tiles. Anagogical and eschatological readings of the floral motifs of the tiles of the portico, qibla wall and the mihrab will reinforce the Sufi humanist approach and Ottoman Renaissance mindset.
  • Illustrated histories and the self-fashioning of a Renaissance Sultan: In this lecture the focus will be on the miniature paintings from the Süleymanname (The Illustrated history of Süleyman the Magnificent). Through close analysis of selected paintings the students will gain understanding of how the sultan used propaganda to bolster his image in the Islamic East and Latin West. To do this he relied on using the 11th century Persian exemplar – Firdausi’s Shahname (Book of Kings) highlighting the sultan’s connections to the mythical past and exemplifying his heroic deeds.
  • Legacy of Ottoman Renaissance material culture: This session focuses on the Ottoman Renaissance legacy and its centrifugal influence on the material culture of the neighbouring regions of the Ottoman Empire. The session looks at how early modern Ottoman art reflected the greatness of the Empire’s rulers and the magnificence of the sultans' court. Ottoman material culture was positively received in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe, from Moscow, Warsaw, Budapest, and Venice to London.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Appreciate the revisionist and global perspectives of the term ‘Renaissance’.
  2. Understand and discuss the major artistic works of the early modern Ottoman Empire through primary and secondary sources including visual.
  3. Develop and extend their knowledge and understanding of cultural, artistic and political systems of the early modern Ottoman Empire and cross-cultural interactions with both the Islamic East and Latin West.
  4. Critically analyse the art historical symbolisms of the early modern Ottoman aesthetics.
$192 Limited / $173

<p>Discover the development of the Ottoman mosque and monumental tomb architecture, as well as other decorative arts such as Iznik ceramics and calligraphy. We also look at several contemporary

21 Oct

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