Tezhip (manuscript illumination) art is one of the sub-branches of book arts and it is the form of ornament applied on paper. The word tezhip got its name from gold, which is its most important material. It is derived from the Arabic word “zeheb” which means gold. Literally means to gild. In addition to gold, traditional colors such as dark blue (lapislazuli), Turkish red, ocher, Turkish blue (turquoise), and bluish green, which were acquired from earth dyes in the past and from ready-made dyes currently, were employed in the art of illumination. Throughout history, many colors are added to these colors. Some colors have emerged in response to their epochs and represent the qualities of that epoch.
Illuminated works are called “müzehhep”. Male artists dealing with illumination are called "müzehhip" and women are called "müzehhibe". In the past, the place where illuminated manuscripts were made was called "nakkaşhane" or "nakışhane". Illumination applications are mostly seen in religious manuscripts such as the Qur'an, Masnavi and prayer books, Hilye-i Şerifs, Muraqqas, Stanzas, and on the margins of the calligraphy plates. Particularly, sections of the Mus'hafs such as zahriye pages, serlevha, unvan sayfası (title pages), surah beginnings, roses, colophon or hatime are the pages with the most beautiful illuminations. Art and craft are in competition in this branch of art. Anatolian Seljuk State, established following the collapse of the Great Seljuk Empire, brought the Seljuk illumination art to Anatolia. The most important feature of the works of art produced by the Seljuks is their simplicity. This feature later became one of the most important characters of the Ottoman illumination art. The Anatolian Principalities Period illumination art of the 14th century served as a precursor to the Classical
Ottoman Period illumination art.
The earliest school of Ottoman illumination may be traced back to the creation of an embroidery shop in Topkapı Palace following Mehmet the Conqueror's conquest of Istanbul and the appointment of Baba Nakkaş of Uzbek descent as its leader. The Beyazıt II era illumination art is a transition phase in which the 16th century illumination art began and is regarded as the beginning of the classical period. Suleiman the Magnificent reigned amid the most glorious phase of classical style. The leading figure in this period was Şahkulu, the chief muralist of the palace mural workshop. He introduced the style called sazyolu to the art of Turkish decoration. Karamemi, who was a pupil of Ahkulu in the second half of the 16th century and distinguished himself with his brilliance, succeeded Şahkulu as chief of the muralists. Karamemi laid the foundations of Şükufe decoration by presenting the first examples of Turkish taste in the 16th century with bouquets and single flowers. The classical illumination style of 1600-1650, which was acceptable for Ottoman illumination art in the 17th century, is said to have been largely perpetuated. In the 18th century, the ornamentation of the western baroque and rococo styles came to the fore. The works of "Ali Üsküdari", a master of illumination and lacquer, and "Abdullah Buhari", known as a flower painter, were the last representatives of Ottoman taste. Decoration, like everything else, changed with the Ottoman Empire's westernization in the 18th century. The Western idea of art, combined with the characteristics of Turkish art, gave rise to a fresh style known as "Turkish Rococo." These changes, the beginning of which coincided with the Ahmet III period, continued until the end of the 19th century. In this period, naturalistic ornaments replaced the motifs of the classical period. Studies were conducted towards the close of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries to preserve the art of illumination and providing illumination education. These works have played a key role in the continuation of our traditional arts until today. The outstanding masters, such as İsmail Hakkı Altunbezer (1882–1944), Rikkat Kunt (1907–1993) and Dr. Süheyl Ünver (1898–1986), as well as the pupils they mentored, played an important part in the preservation and transfer of the 20th century art of illumination to the current day.
The materials used in the art of illumination are as follows:
Gold: Gold plates, which are turned into foil with a special method, can be used in illumination by crushing as well as directly pasted as foil.
Gold ink: It is the name of the liquid obtained by mixing the gold leaf with gelatinous water after washing it by crushing with gum arabic or filtered honey.
Mühre (polishing stone): Crushed gold is indistinguishable from yellow paint when applied. It is polished with a hard and glazed stone, called zer mühre, in order to gain its golden appearance and shine.
Techniques used in classical illumination; ground-painted classical illumination, zer-ender zer, ringari, double tahrir (cool illumination). Today, in the art of illumination, which is mostly seen on the margins and free designs, hatching and halkar technique are generally applied.
Illuminated pages in manuscripts are:
Zahriye Page: The most important decorations of the manuscripts are on the introduction pages called “zahriye”.
Serlevha: Literally Ser means "header". Serlevha (head plate) is the two pages that come after the zahriye page, where the text begins, and the first verses of the Surah Fatiha and Bakara are located opposite each other.
Unvan Page: In manuscripts, the illuminated section that is made one-sided above the text on the first right part of the page and ends with a crochet in juz mushafs, at the beginning of the surah is called "unvan sayfası" (title page).
Surah Beginnings: The decoration in the surah beginnings is made around the part where the name of the surah is found. It is usually worked in a rectangular frame. As opposed to the beginning of the surah in religious works, the beginning of the fasıl (beginning of the chapter) illumination is seen in other works with social content (such as the divan).
Hatim Page: It is the signature page where the manuscript ends. It is also known as the colophon page.
Illumination art in Konya;
It is understood from the books and wakfiyahs dedicated to the madrasahs and Mevlana's Tomb in Konya that there was an interest in the art of books during the Anatolian Seljuk Period. There are very few manuscripts prepared in the palace on behalf of the administrators of the Seljuk state, which was able to strengthen towards the end of the 12th century and provide a central administration throughout the 13th century. However, the intensive preparation of illuminated manuscripts began after the 1270s and lasted for the 14th century. The theme, color, and composition aspects of the illumination art that emerged in Anatolia, with Konya as the hub, throughout the 13th-14th centuries are influenced by the Great Seljuk manuscripts created in Iran and the manuscripts produced in Baghdad. In the Seljuk works, the richest illumination is found on the serlevha in the zahriye part of the books, at the beginning of the surahs, on the title pages, on the roses prepared in horizontal and vertical positions adjacent to the rulers on the page margins, and in the hatime section, which is the last page of the book. It cannot be said that the patterns and motifs in the book decorations of the Anatolian Seljuks and Principalities were perfect, and the workmanship was fine. The motifs have been chosen quite large, and fine workmanship has not yet been reached in the engravings and coloring of the motifs. Along with the geometric shapes seen in every field of Seljuk art, Rumi motifs were the most prominent elements of the Seljuk illumination, which lived its brightest period at the end of the 13th century. Other popular and most used elements of this period are the chains and knots used on the side sills. Münhani motif, on the other hand, reigned for 13-14 centuries and became the symbol of the era together with the zencer. The crochet hooks on the edges of the pattern are located on the line called “kuzu” (lamb), which is drawn sometimes on the ruler and sometimes next to the ruler, with a light navy blue color and plain appearance. The employment of red brown, black, light navy blue, off-white, and pink in illumination is one of the period's distinguishing qualities. Gold, on the other hand, was employed in two ways: crushed and stuck in leaf form. Motifs are painted with color degradation technique. The illumination art is still practiced today at the illumination division of the Traditional Turkish Arts Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Konya, as well as workshops and vocational courses. The illumination art applied by the Faculty of Fine Arts is different from the Anatolian Seljuks and Principalities period. The school represents the ancient Turkish illumination art, which was developed by our excellent professors who fought to guarantee that our illumination art would not be lost and revitalized in the twentieth century. This school, which was based in Istanbul, also continued in Konya. Most of the illuminated works in Konya are in the Mevlana Museum and Yusuf Ağa Libraries. When the motif, color and composition features of these samples are taken into consideration, the influences of the Great Seljuks can be seen. Konya has been an important center in terms of book decoration arts in the Ottoman Period.
It is known that many calligraphers and illuminators worked in Konya madrasahs in the 19th century. Today, important artists have been trained in the field of illumination with the works of the illuminators from Istanbul and Konya who grew up in the illumination workshops established by Süheyl Ünver's students in Istanbul, the artists trained in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and the courses of the Destegül Fine Arts School.