Amazing Examples of Ottoman Art and Architecture

Known today as the Republic of Turkey,this amazing country has a historic link to the Ottoman Empire that saw it control western Asia, northern Africa and parts of southern and eastern Europe. That said, you can find examples of Ottoman architecture, the signature calling card of the civilisation, in the likes of Greece, Montenegro and Cyprus.

How do we best define the cultural impact of these ingenious individuals? For many, our attention turns to Turkey, the republic that remained after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. It is there that we find the grand domes, spires and stonework of the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, one of the most recognisable and internationally famous of Turkey’s buildings, hailing from its Byzantine days.

Influential history

Hagia Sofia was inspirational in terms of Ottoman architects and designers centuries before today.

They took characteristics of Byzantine stylisation and refined them further. In fact, the Hagia Sofia inspired many of the Istanbul buildings that would follow, such as the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent, which was built in the city – then known as Constantinople in the 1550s. It was the work of Mimar Sinan, or Sinan the Architect, who joined the Ottoman Janissary corps and converted to Islam before his passion and talent for architecture came to the fore.

Sinan’s work went on to define the great arches, spires, towers, domes and clean walls of Ottoman architecture that remain to this day, as well as the decorative use of colour and pattern that defines the style. Don’t forget Turkey’s magnificent bazaars, which feature arched walkways with colourful tiles and the constant thrum of commerce – or Turkish baths, which are just as indicative of the Ottoman approach.

Appreciating the artistry

Ottoman architecture is nothing less than magnificent, and there’s plenty to enjoy in the art that its most talented creators left for us. One art form that flourished during the Empire’s reign, particularly during the time of Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s, is calligraphy. Ottoman calligraphy at its most ornate takes beautifully threaded Arabic writing and embeds each character within or atop the other, creating wonderfully intricate curls and sweeping lines that conceal evocative messages.

As well as painting, sculptures and intricately painted miniatures, the influences of Asian and Middle Eastern culture on the growth of the Ottoman Empire made the weaving of carpets a highly sought after art form. It had both aesthetic and practical uses, because it was custom to remove your shoes when visiting a house, and a well woven rug made that much more comfortable. Yet a carpet could also contain patterns depicting heraldry, religiously significant symbolism or colourful patterns of intriguing texture, shape and form.

Creative craftmanship

Ottoman art is also appreciated in many other forms, such as the exquisite jewellery that continues to inspire our modern and contemporary designs. What makes Ottoman necklaces, bracelets and rings deeply enticing is their many folds. They are characterised by big teardrop stones of ruby, sapphire and emerald wrapped in intricately crafted golden and silver clasps, complete with filigree inlays and coloured specks of sparkle and colour.

The Empire’s goldsmiths were renowned across the Renaissance world, and they had a particular fondness for watch-making. There are even examples of antique firearms covered in gemstones and intricate patterns, showing that even militant mindsets had an eye for style.