Artistic Handcraft - The Tughra of Suleiman I
Size: H. 52.1 cm; W. 64.5 cm
Origin and time: Turkey, during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman 1520-1566
Suleiman I (or Suleyman), "the Magnificent", Ottoman Sultan, is said to have been the most fortunate of the sultans and was also referred to as “kanuni” the law giver by his own people. Having inherited a well-organized country, a disciplined army and a full treasury, he created a humongous empire with territory spread over large parts of western Asia, northern Africa, and south-eastern Europe. His legacy was to impact and influence the rest of the world.
Under his rule, the number of schools was increased, the clerical class of the Ulema was reorganised in its hierarchical order from the Sheikh-ul-Islam downwards, the administration of the country was reformed and improved both in a civil and in a military sense and a new and improved system for the feudal tenures introduced. Despite the fact that his empire stretched over three continents, Suleiman was able to create a government ruling successfully over the many different cultures and peoples. He helped to construct a system of government that kept order, collected revenues, and maintained effective military forces. Further success was a legal reform and a new system of government.
The term tughra, in Arabic:طغرا,Turkish: tuğra, denominates the most outstanding kind of signature, monogram, symbol or design of the Ottoman Sultans and corresponds to the official seal of western rulers. While tughras were initially used on official documents, they would later be used as a symbol of sovereignty. Right after his accession, each sultan would choose his personal tughra and would use the same format throughout his sultanate. In its most classical sense, a tughra combines the name of the ruler with that of his father. Persian and Mongolian titles and Arabic words or letters and most of the time also form of the prayer el muzaiffa daima were added. Since May 28th 1927 tughras have no longer been allowed to be displaced in public (weaponry, inscriptions, public buildings) in Turkey.
How to read a tughra
Stand: the base including the main elements (name and title/appellation of the sultan and his father as well as the prayer “ever victorious” Eggs: two ellipsoid curves on the left side of the tughra Tughs: 3 extensions at the upper part sometimes like but not limited to the letter “alif” in Arabic Arms: two parallel arms starting from the eggs, running down to the right side of the tughra This arrangement has been interpreted as representing the middle fingers and the thumb, formerly used to sign documents.
Image taken from: Islam - Visual Encyclopedia of Art (2009)
Sources: tugra.org, turkishculture.org, metmuseum.org