Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ottoman Felicity

Of his (alleged) 103 children, Sultan Murad III (1546-1595) of the Ottoman Empire chose Fatma to be the recipient of Matali’ al-saadet (the Book of Felicity or Happiness).

[The book] " features descriptions of the twelve signs of the zodiac accompanied by splendid miniatures; a series of paintings showing how human circumstances are influenced by the planets; astrological and astronomical tables; and an enigmatic treatise on fortune telling.

The oriental world unfolds before our very eyes in each miniature: mysterious characters in peculiar poses, exotic, brightly coloured garments, luxurious mansions and sumptuous palaces, muezzins in the minarets of mosques calling the faithful to prayer, elegant horsemen riding their stylised horses with lavishly embellished trappings. Countless exotic animals fill the pages of this manuscript: exuberant peacocks, extraordinary sea serpents, giant fish, eagles and other birds of prey, swallows, storks and other birds drawn in an elegant, stylised manner revealing considerable influence by Japanese painting. There is also an entire chapter on the monsters appearing in medieval, Turkish imagery, brimming with menacing demons and imaginary beasts."
There are 16 of the 71 illuminated miniatures from Matali’ al-saadet at MMoleiro and a couple more at Finns (click on the small illumination near the top of the page). [These are both commercial sites who both have exactly the same spiel about the book]

Addit: Just on the subject of illuminated manuscripts, for anyone living in New York, NYPL currently have an exhibition of 100 manuscripts from their holdings *until Feb' 2006*. But for the rest of us, they have posted a website with the exhibition brochure and also a sampling in a flash interface - it is a substantial exhibition and a pretty good website.

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