Visual Discourse of the Ottoman Clove

Visual Discourse of the Ottoman Clove

Nurdan Oncel Taskiran (Kocaeli University, Turkey) and Nursel Bolat (Istanbul Arel University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4639-1.ch021
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Abstract

In tile art, one of the world-famous Turkish handicrafts, a wide variety of patterns are used on tile objects. The most common of these, after the tulip pattern, is the naturalist clove pattern. Different meanings are assigned to this pattern within the boundaries of form, color, and design. Identification and perception of these meanings has a special place within the frame of the culture that they relay. In this present study, the fields of meaning of the clove pattern frequently used in tile decoration arts among Turkish handicrafts are determined. By taking Greimas' Actantial Model as the theoretical model visual discourse analysis of the clove pattern is made.
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Literature Review

Not many studies made on tile arts and particularly visual discourse studies could be found in the literature. For this reason, the data were obtained through written, visual and virtual literature review method.

Tile Art Themes in the Ottoman Empire Era

The Ottoman Empire Era as the predecessor of the State of Turkish Republic, was a period where Islam was intensely prevalent in all aspects. In this period when the fear of idolatry was in question, the thought that human figures can be idolized or portrayal them was considered to be a sin, flowers were seen as the reflection of the heaven. Due to this understanding, affection towards flowers and the nature was eminently reflected on the artworks of the Ottoman Era. The most beautiful instances of these are the special palace gardens called “Has Bahce”, arranged with heavy efforts. This interest shown to the nature and flowers also continued in Ottoman handicrafts and gained a well-earned reputation throughout the world. Among the famous Turkish handicrafts, tile art or tile decoration is the most widely known.

In tile decoration, a form of art that peaked in the Ottoman Era, it is observed that primarily tulip, rose and clove flowers are used as decoration patterns. Although it is not exactly known from where the colorful naturalist flower and leaf motives that emerged onto the tiles in the sixteenth century, there is a possibility that they may have passed from cloths to tiles (Aslanapa 1949, p. 22). Despite the fact that the tile works that came from China in that period also had an influence on the naturalist patterns, this theme can also be considered as the reflection of the love of nature in Turks within the context of religion.

Effect of Religion on the Ottoman Era Tile Decoration Art

Religious beliefs had a substantial effect on the prominent use of the nature theme in Ottoman Era handicrafts. Having started to adopt Islam in masses as from the 10th Century, after settling in the Anatolia and establishing the Ottoman State, the Turks reflected their deep love of nature and the faith they had towards Allah onto their works of art. As human and animal figures are not used in places of worship in Islam, it paved the way for intensive use of naturalist patterns. In Islam, the fear of going back to idolatry was the primary of the reasons causing concerns towards painting. Be it ideological or charismatic, it was feared that use of a figure of a leader could lead to a bad image (Mitchell 2005, Ch. XV). The tradition of not using the figures of the living that were avoided in Islamic arts due to the fear of converting back to idolatry, continued in the Ottoman arts and even continues today.

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Method: Algirdas Julien Greimas And The Actantial Model

Discourse, is defined as “statement, verbal or written realization of the language, use of the talking individual” (Toguslu 2004, p.36). The clove patterns on the tiles bear many discourses in them from the producing artist to beliefs and the political and economic structure of the period. Within the scope of this discourse, in the study clove pattern was dealt within the formal context in which it was used, and tried to be explained along with its supporters that render it visible and its opponents, according to the Actantial Model of Algirdas Julien Greimas.

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