Top 10 Greatest Ottoman Artists of All Time

#10 Levni (17 – 18th century)

Portrait of Levni

Portrait of Levni

He was born in Edirne, in European Turkey, some time in the late 17th century. He became the most prominent painter in Turkey, and was appointed   court painter under Sultans Mustafa II and Ahmed III. He was a noted figure of the Tulip period. He died in Istanbul in 1732

As court painter he executed his marvelously composed masterpieces: the Surname-i Sultan Ahmed Han and the Surname-i Vehbi (“Book of Festival”). The latter book, still in the library of the Topkapı Palace, depicts the festivals commemorating the circumcision in 1720 of four sons of Ahmed III, However Levni’s main concern seems to have been to paint single-leaved miniatures depicting individuals: beautiful girls, languidly reclining ladies, and charming young men. The faces of his figures show little expression.

#9 Yakut el Mustafa Sami (13th century)

Ottoman Tugra (Sign Of Emperor)

The inventor of Ottoman Tugra and great applicator of Hat (calligraphy) art. Unfortunately, there are many unknowns about his biography. But the beauty that he created for the emperor stayed immortal. Click here to learn basics of Ottoman tugra (Tughra).

#8 Architecture Hayreddin – Hajrudin (15-16th century)

Mostar Bridge

Mostar Bridge

He builds important public buildings for Sultan Beyazid II and becomes the chief architecture in the empire. It is said that his father (Murad) was also an architecture and had some important inventions in architectural designs. He is also known as one of the greatest students of (Mimar) Sinan. “Mostar bridge” can be count as one of his masterpieces. That bridge was destroyed by Serbian attack in 90s and reconstructed by the help of Unesco Nations in 2004.

#7 Architecture Sedefkar Mehmed  (16th century)

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

He was just a garden security in 1562 when he first came to Constantinople. Then he entered the Enderun and music societies. He also became the student of (Mimar) Sinan. After his graduation as a sufist, he travelled many cities around three continent. Then he became the chief architecture in Ottoman Empire and stayed at Constantinople. He built his masterpiece in 1616: Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

#6 Balyan or Balgian Family (18 – 19th century)

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace

For five generations in the 18th and 19th centuries, they designed and constructed numerous major buildings, including palaces, kiosks, mosques, churches and various public buildings, mostly in Constantinople. The nine well-known members of the family served six sultans in the course of almost a century and were responsible for the westernization of the architecture of the then-capital city.

Note that in historical resources, it is debated that their architectural identity may be confused with contractor or administrator identities for some members. It is unknown to define who was “architecture”, “contractor” or “administrator” among the family members.

#5 Mehmet Akif Ersoy (1873 – 1936)

Mehmet Akif Ersoy

He was a poet, author, academic, member of parliament, and the poet of the Turkish National Anthem. It is hard to say he was purely an Ottoman artist because his masterpieces mostly formed the modern Turkish nation. Basically two of them are very well known by every single Turkish citizen: National Anthem and Canakkale Sehitlerine (dedicated to Gallipoli Martyrs)

#4 Dede Efendi (1778 – 1846)

Dede Efendi

Dede Efendi

His full name is Hammamizade Ismail Dede Efendi. He composed over thousand of classical song and contributed the Ottoman music in 18th century. He invented new musical scales to play in a wide range of areas.

He was born on 9 January 1778, in IstanbulŞehzadebaşı. He started studying music with Mehmed Emin Efendi, at the age of eight. He attended rituals at Yenikapı Mevlevihanesi, a place of Mevlevi gathering. He studied with Ali Nutki Dede and learned to play ney, in Yenikapı Mevlevihanesi. He became “Dede” in 1799. Dede Efendi’s music was well appreciated by Sultan Selim III and then he performed his works at the palace. He had composed hundreds of songs and mevlevi rituals. In 1846 he pilgrimaged to Mecca, but in Mina contracted cholera and died. His grave is now in Mecca.

Dede Efendi gave lessons in Turkish music to Hamparsum Limonciyan who developed the Hamparsum notation, the dominant notation for Turkish music.

One of the greatest Turkish composers, he has created masterpieces in all forms and modes of Turkish music. He has also developed the composite musical modes of “sultanî yegâh”, “nev-eser”, “saba-buselik”, “hicaz-buselik” and “araban kürdî”. His greatest works are the seven Mevlevi pieces for Samah. More than two hundred of his compositions are available today.

#3 B. Mustafa Itri (1640 -1712)

Mustafa Itri

Mustafa Itri

Many things known about him today are subject to dispute. His real name was Mustafa, and he was sometimes referred to as Buhurizade Mustafa Efendi. Itri was a major exponent of Turkish classical music. He was a very prolific composer with more than a thousand works. However, only about forty of these survived to this day.

As with most composers of his day, Itri was also a famous poet. He used poetic forms based on the classicial Ottoman school of poetry (Divan), as well as those based on syllabic meters identified with folk music and poetry. Unfortunately most of his poetry has not survived to this day. He was also known for being a calligrapher.

It is believed that he was a Mevlevi, and composed religious music for this order. He lived through the times of five Ottoman Sultans. He became well known during the time of Mehmet IV. He sang in fasils, which are concert programs with the same makam, in the presence of Mehmet IV. Starting from this time, he enjoyed the support of the palace for many years. He taught music in the palace Enderun school. He was also interested in gardening. It is believed that his name Itri comes from the word itir, which means pelargonium.

As with most composers of his day, Itri was also a famous poet. He used poetic forms based on the classicial Ottoman school of poetry (Divan), as well as those based on syllabic meters identified with folk music and poetry. Unfortunately most of his poetry has not survived to this day. He was also known for being a calligrapher.

Buhurizade Itri is an ancestor of the Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Otari.

#2 Fausto Zonaro (1854 – 1929)

Portrait of Fausto Zonaro

Portrait of Fausto Zonaro

In Constantinople, over time he came to the attention of the aristocratic circles, and obtained from them orders for his works.

One of these was Teşrifat Nazırı Münir Paşa who invited him to visit Yıldız Palace and meet the prestigious Ottoman artist Osman Hamdi Bey. He was then employed in teaching painting to the wife of Münir Paşa, and in this way Zonaro and his wife, got to know the important artistic figures of Constantinople of that time. In 1896 he was nominated as the court painter (Ottoman Turkish: Ressam-ı Hazret-i Şehriyari) thanks to the intervention of the Russian ambassador who had presented the ruling sultan Abdulhamid II with Zonaro’s work Il reggimento imperiale di Ertugrul sul ponte di Galata (in English: The Imperial Regiment of the Ertugrul on the Galata Bridge), which Abdulhamid II had then purchased.

This painting is of the crew of the Ottoman warship Ertugrul which had just been sent off on a visit to Japan. The Sultan later requested that Zonaro, as court painter, paint other works for him, in particular a series of paintings depicting the time of the 15th-century Ottoman sultan, Mehmed II.

The last Official Ottoman Palace artist.

The Imperial Regiment of the Ertugrul on the Galata Bridge

The Imperial Regiment of the Ertugrul on the Galata Bridge

#1 Architecture (Mimar) Sinan (16th century)

The architecture of Great Mosques in the Empire .

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

Published in: on October 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm  Comments (3)  
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The World’s First Soft Drink

sherbet seller

A Sherbet Seller

“Give me a sun, I care not how hot, and sherbet, I care not how cool, and my Heaven is as easily made as your Persian’s.”

So wrote Lord Byron longingly in 1813, after he had tasted the drink during visits to Istanbul.

In The Thousand and One Nights, sherbet appears as a refreshing and medicinal drink. Sir Richard Burton’s translation reads:

Thereupon Shahryar summoned doctors and surgeons and bade them treat his brother according to the rules of art, which they did for a whole month; but their sherbets and potions naught availed….

The drink known as sherbet has, in its various forms, inspired many imbibers with its intense, distilled fragrance of fruits, flowers or herbs. Both today and historically, sherbet is perhaps the most widespread drink in the Muslim world. Two centuries before Byron, the philosopher Francis Bacon had tasted sherbet in 1626, giving us one of the earliest records of the new English word.

Sherbet is made from fruit juices or extracts of flowers or herbs, combined with sugar and water (and sometimes vinegar) to form a syrup that is thinned at any later time with water, ice or even snow. As alcohol is forbidden in Islam, sherbet became one of the most important beverages in Muslim cultures—even part of everyday language. In Egyptian Arabic, for example, “dammu sharbaat” (“his blood is sherbet”) is a compliment to a sweet disposition. Children are “sharbaataat“—”cuties” or “sweethearts.” Coffee or tea can be served “sharbaat,” which means “very sweet.” In Central and South Asia, sharbat is used as a given name, and one of National Geographic magazine’s most famous cover photographs is the face of Sharbat Gula of Afghanistan.

The reason for sherbet’s wide popularity was simply that, until the early 20th century, there were few means of preserving and transporting fresh fruit. Refrigeration was available only to the very rich, while the horse was the universal measure of both speed and distance. Fruits thus remained seasonal and local—except when they could be either dried or reduced to a liquid essence in the form of syrup.

Sherbet derives from Arabic shariba, “to drink.” Shariba gave rise to numerous derivatives, in Arabic and other languages, including English. Whatever it was called in any language, however, sherbet’s principal meaning remains “syrup” or its derivative, “a cooling drink (of the East),” as the Oxford English Dictionary calls it.

One variant, Arabic sharbah (essentially “a drink”), gave Turkish serbet (and Persian and Hindi sharbat) and our sherbet. Another, shurb (literally “a drinking”), followed trading ships back west with Portuguese xarope, giving Medieval Latin sirupus and our own rather Greek-looking syrup. More recently, sharaab came west from India and by 1867 had entered such dictionaries as Smith’s Sailor’s Wordbook, which lists “Shrab, a vile drugged drink prepared for seaman who frequent the filthy purlieus of Calcutta.” The spelling in the American colonies crystallized as shrub.

Let us not forget another of sharaab’s contributions to language, this time in architecture: mashrabiyyah. According to A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic, the word that now commonly refers to a Middle Eastern turned, latticed woodwork window screen applied originally to the location where that screen was placed; a mashrabiyyah is a platform projecting outside a house window, where jars could be stored and cooled by evaporation.

Ottoman Turks drank serbet before and during each meal, and to this very day the Haci Abdullah restaurant in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district serves serbet with many traditional Ottoman foods. Customers can start a meal the old way, with a serbet called karisik komposto, a dense, rose-colored drink made from syrup of quince, apple, pear, peach and apricot mixed with iced spring water.

A glass of Rose Sherbet

A glass of Rose Sherbet

Besides Haci Abdullah there are only a handful of restaurants which still serve Ottoman style, including Konyali at the Topkapi Palace and Daruzziyafe (“guesthouse”) at the Süleymaniye Mosque, both in old Istanbul. According to the season, Daruzziyafe serves two kinds of serbet each day: fruit—including pear, quince, strawberry, apple, cornelian cherry, pomegranate and orange—and herb serbet made from the leaves or roots of such plants as palmyra palm, rose and carob. There is also a honey serbet.

In the New World, in McLean, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., one can taste modern interpretations of Ottoman dishes at Kazan restaurant, run by Chef Zeynel Abidin Uzun, a student of Konyali’s Ottoman-trained master chef Abdullah Effendi. Chef Uzun serves dügün serbeti (“wedding sherbet”), a latter-day name for the Ottoman karisik komposto.

Sherbet is made from fruit juices or extracts of flowers or herbs, combined with sugar and water to form a syrup that is mixed at any later time with water, ice or even snow.

Andrew Mango, former BBC director for the Near East and author of numerous books on Turkey, was raised in Istanbul. Of his youth in the early days of modern Turkey, Mango recollects there were serbetçiler, or serbet-sellers, who carried on their backs huge brass flasks with long spouts, filled with one of many flavors: tamarind or pomegranate, lemon or orange. Slung around his waist, the serbetçi would carry a row of glasses tucked into his sash or into a brass cup-holder. For a customer, he would rinse a glass with water, bend forward and, from the spout that curved over his shoulder, pour delicious serbet into the glass. There were also street-side stands that sold serbet, which Mango recalls as “safer” in terms of cleanliness. Mango’s favorite serbet flavors? They were kizilcik, or cornelian cherry, and demirhindi, or tamarind.

In villages in eastern Turkey, it is still true today that, after a dowry is agreed on, the groom’s family comes to the bride’s house and out comes a long-spouted brass or copper ewer, called an ibrik, filled with gül serbeti, or rose sherbet. The woman who has “drunk sherbet” has accepted the groom’s suit. Far across Asia, in India and Afghanistan as well, once the groom’s family has offered presents, the bride’s family reciprocates by offering gol sharbat.

Not only marriage but also births and circumcisions demand sherbet. “As for special occasions, you should soon be offering logusa serbeti, a colored serbet flavored with cloves and other spices, which is offered to visitors after the birth of a child,” recounts Mango. In Egypt, one is served finjan erfeh when visiting a newborn child.

In his 1836 classic Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Edward W. Lane described at length the sharaab of Egypt:

The Egyptians have various kinds of sherbets or sweet drinks. The most common kind is merely sugar and water but very sweet; lemonade is another; a third kind, the most esteemed, is prepared from a hard conserve of violets, made by pounding violet-flowers and then boiling them with sugar. This violet-sherbet is of a green color. A fourth kind is prepared from mulberries; a fifth from sorrel. There is also a kind of sherbet sold in the streets which is a strong infusion of liquorice-root, and called by the name of that root; a third kind, which is prepared from the fruit of the locust tree, and called in like manner by the name of the fruit.

The sherbet is served in coloured glass cups, generally called kullehs containing about three quarters of a pint, some of which (the more common kind) are ornamented with gilt flowers etc. The sherbet cups are placed on a round tray and covered with a piece of embroidered silk, or cloth of gold.

Sharaab was also served to end each day’s fasting during the month of Ramadan, Lane observed:

In general during Ramadan, in the houses of persons of the higher and middle classes, the stool of the supper-tray is placed in the apartment in which the master of the house receives his visitors a few minutes before sunset…. With these are also placed several kullehs (or glass cups) of sherbet of sugar and water—usually one or two more cups than there are persons in the house to partake of beverages in case of visitors coming unexpectedly…. Immediately after the call to evening-prayer, which is chanted four minutes after sunset, the master and such of his family or friends as happen to be with him drink each a glass of sherbet.

One such recipe served to this day in the United Arab Emirates is sharab loomi ma ward, or lemon sherbet with rosewater.

M. R. Ghanoonparvar, Professor of Persian language and literature and an accomplished chef and cookbook author, recalls that in Iran, sharbat is usually served at parties, especially in summer, and often in special glasses.

In Iran, sharbat is often made from aromatic flowers rather than just fruit, mostly in Shiraz, which produces and exports to other parts of Iran those flower extracts (called ‘araq—literally “perspiration”). Some of the flowers are bahar narenj (orange blossoms), bidmeshk (Egyptian or musk-willow) and kâsnî (chicory). In her novel Savushun, the first written and published in Iran by a woman, Simin Daneshvar wrote of “the [sharbat] distillery next door with its mounds of flowers and herbs every season, flowers and herbs whose very names make you happy… pussy willows, citrons, fumitories, palm pods, sweetbriars and most of all its orange blossoms.”

On the 13th day of Iran’s Nowruz (New Year’s) holiday, celebrated every March, families leave their homes to picnic, eating and drinking seven things that start with the letter seen (‘s’) and seven that start with sheen (‘sh’), including a sharbat of sugar, vinegar and fresh mint called sekanjebin. Mint is believed to have restorative powers—so much so that Iranian families have been known to sneak hospital patients unauthorized doses of sekanjebin to speed recovery.

In Europe and America, the drink known as shrub was popular, usually made from tart fruits like raspberries or currants or citrus mixed with sugar and vinegar. Often rum, brandy or other alcohol was added. Nowadays, shrub, without alcohol, is making a small comeback commercially, and is sold at some American colonial-style restaurants and stores, especially in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

At the end of the 19th century came America’s craze for carbonated medicinal drinks. This was the source of Coca-Cola, which first spread across the country through drugstores and pharmacies. Spreading abroad, Coca-Cola began operating bottling plants in the Philippines and China in 1927, Singapore in 1934, Malaysia in 1936, Morocco and Tunisia in 1947, Pakistan in 1953, Sri Lanka in 1960 and Turkey in 1965.

Carbonated soft drinks became dominant after 19th century

Carbonated Soft Drinks became dominant after 19th century

For a while the two types of soft drinks, western and eastern, vied for position in sherbet shops and among street vendors in the Middle East. Over time, however, western soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi came to dominate, and now they are often served not just with western fast-food meals, but also with traditional dishes. The practical need for fruit-, herb- and flower-based sherbets has been outdated: Thanks to modern refrigeration, glass bottles and specialized containers like Tetra Pak, “fresh” frozen and refrigerated juices can be shipped to supermarkets worldwide and brought home to refrigerators.

Yet it seems sherbet retains great symbolic power, even in politics. For example, in the ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, in 1998 the Indian Express reported that “people forgot three wars and the accumulated bitterness of 50 years” to celebrate a sharbat-based ceremony over the divided border. In 2000, some 25,000 Indian devotees offered Pakistani border guards sharbat. In India’s national budgets, sharbat has its own line for the excise tax, listed right next to sugar, vinegar, chocolate, chewing gum and instant coffee and tea. Indian newspapers debate whether sharbat should indeed even be taxed.

Sherbet can be made and enjoyed at home to this day using syrups available in most markets in the East and in specialty stores (many of which are now on-line) or made from special-order ingredients (like lemon and orange blossom extracts) in the West.

This article is re-printed from:

Juliette Rossant, ‘The World’s First Soft Drink’, In Saudi Aramco World Magazine. 2006, Vol. 56 No. 5

Published in: on November 12, 2009 at 12:00 am  Comments (3)  
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