Monday, December 5, 2011

71. Tughra of Suleiman the Magnificent (NOT ON DISPLAY)

MacGregor then begins his Part Three with lots of world-bestriding empires. First up, the signature and authority of the greatest of all Ottoman emperors, taking us to the empire that really did dump us into the extremely modern world. The Persians, Alexander, and the Byzantines may have had decent empires in that part of the world, previously; but from the century leading up to their taking of Constantinople in 1453, to their final disintegration in 1918 and reinvention under Kemal Ätaturk as modern Turkey, let’s make no illusions—the Turks had a pretty effective empire. MacGregor attributes their success to knowing how to use both implements, the sword and the pen—good at war, and good at bureacracy. Bureacracy, apparently, is good for preserving systems, assuming it doesn’t get too corrupt, because it prevents a really incompetent leader from doing too much damage. An intriguing explanation—as a manager I yearn for constructing a paperless office, with a minimum of bureacracy, but maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree here.

This beautiful signature, which conferred upon some faraway bureacrat/satrap the authority of Suleiman the Magnificent, wasn’t on exhibit—probably too fragile, it’s a 450 year-old piece of paper. But it’s mighty beautiful, as you can see, bureacracy taking that mighty pen seriously as forum for art/craft, not just red tape.

We noticed that on my famous trip to Istanbul in 2001, how gorgeous all that Islamic non-representational art had gotten by the time of Suleiman, who in the 1550s built both the outrageous Blue Mosque, the fabulous Topkapi Palace, and a hamam I’ll never forget being so lucky as to visit.

Alec and I at Suleiman's hamam. Other photos from that trip went up last week.

On that trip, up north in a suburb called Ortaköy, I picked up a little good-luck charm in a style similar to the Suleiman Tughra, which has been hanging above my bed ever since.

1 comment: