Ottoman Illustrated Histories

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Ottoman Illustrated Histories

Emine Fetvacı


This talk introduces Ottoman painting through an examination of illustrated histories, which were the most popular works chosen for illustration during the sixteenth century. Through a close study of two manuscripts, we explore why these books were illustrated, what kinds of topics they focused on, and how they were used. The manuscripts examined here are “The History of Sultan Suleyman” (also known as “The Book of Victory” or Zafarname) and “The Cream of Histories” (Zübdetü’t-tevarih), both composed by the court historian Seyyid Lokman and illustrated by artists associated with the palace workshops. Prof. Fetvacı would like to thank the Chester Beatty Library for allowing her to use their images in this presentation; the images can be found on the Chester Beatty Library’s website:


Bağcı, Serpil. “Visualizing Power: Portrayals of the Sultans in Illustrated Histories of the Ottoman Dynasty.” Islamic Art VI (2009): 113–127.

Fetvacı, Emine. Picturing History at the Ottoman Court. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Fetvacı, Emine and Christiane Gruber, “Painting, From Royal to Urban Patronage.” In A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, edited by Gülru Necipoǧlu and Finbarr Barry Flood, 874–902.  Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

Kafescioǧlu, Çiǧdem. “The Visual Arts.” In The Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. 2, edited by Suraiya Faroqhi and Kate Fleet, 457-547. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Renda, Günsel. “Chester Beatty Kitaplığındaki Zübdetü’t-Tevarih ve Minyatürleri.” In Prof. Dr. Bekir Kütükoǧlu’na Armaǧan, edited by Mübahat S. Kütükoǧlu, 485–506. Istanbul: Edebiyat Fakültesi Basımevi, 1991.


A worksheet for this video is available here.

Also visit the Khamseen Worksheets page here


Emine Fetvacı, “Ottoman Illustrated Histories,” Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online, published 28 August 2020.

Emine Fetvacı is Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor in Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College. She is the author of Picturing History at the Ottoman Court (Indiana University Press, 2013), and The Album of the World Emperor: Cross-Cultural Collecting and the Art of Album-Making In Seventeenth Century Istanbul (Princeton University Press, 2019), and the editor, with Erdem Çıpa, of Writing History at the Ottoman Court (IUP, 2013).