Knjižnica Filozofskog fakulteta
Sveučilišta u Zagrebu
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Institutional Repository

Analysis of Islamic calligraphic panels (levhas) by Bosniak calligraphers (hattats) from 18th centaury to the middle of 20th century


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Teparić, Meliha. (2016). Analysis of Islamic calligraphic panels (levhas) by Bosniak calligraphers (hattats) from 18th centaury to the middle of 20th century. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Art History.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij povijesti umjetnosti) [mentor Hadžimejlić, Ćazim].

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Period of the active presence of Islamic calligraphy in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in the second half of the 15th century. This is the period of arrival of the Ottomans to Bosnia and Herzegovina (1463). They bring with them already developed and set high artistic standards. After that, they start lively artistic activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere in the Balkans. One of these artistic activities is calligraphic art, which is very actively maintained in the second half of the 19th century, the period of the change of government and the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, which brings a completely different, not only the aesthetics and taste, but also art. Sudden changes in society, transformation and harmonization of patriarchal-oriental ways, according to the Western European way of life, have influenced the artistic activities as well, including in part the art of calligraphy, which was, as it seems according to the calligraphers, in slight decline. Significant decline of interest in Islamic calligraphy was felt in the second half of the 20th century, when there was almost complete extinction of these and similar traditional Islamic art. In the 21th century interest in this artistic discipline stridently increased, not only for its practical affirmation, but also at the scientific level. This work should be a step towards a better understanding and knowledge of the Islamic calligraphy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as its artistic and cultural heritage, and certainly contribute to the valorization of the art, and professional research on whose need some scientists have been pointing for a long time. Neglect of these artistic skills caused its permanent degradation and destruction, and the works that were preserved to this date represents only remnants of once so vivid artistic activities. These works are realized in different media, and this research could not covere it in full. When choosing a specific area or object of research of Islamic calligraphy art in Bosnia and Herzegovina we used method of classification in the formal sense. Accordingly, calligraphic art can be divided into several categories, namely: (1) calligraphy in codes; (2) calligraphy in stone on buildings (tarih) and tombstones (nišan); (3) calligraphy on removable panels (levha); (4) wall calligraphy and (5) calligraphy on decorative items and objects for daily use (ceramics, metal, wood, embroidery, etc.). Levhas, compared with other manifestation of calligraphic art represent separate fragment of Islamic calligraphy, and as such are the main subject of this paper. It is different as a task as well, but also in terms of design are creative art and artistic phenomenon in Islamic art, art that has not developed an interest in figurative image but a different kind of "image", which is not representational, but that can be narrative as well. By avoiding figurative religious themes levhas replaced the administration repertoires, usually sacred message of God's names and attributes, names of Messengers, the just rulers (Caliphs), as well as prominent mystics (Sufis), imams and teachers. These calligraphic works can be printed and made with more freedom and imagination in the form of different compositions, where the letters themselves are the main elements, which sometimes may include decorative elements such as small paintings, ornaments, illuminations or ebru - painting on the water. These types of calligraphic works are posed on the walls of sacred as well as profane space, both in the interior and exterior. Over time, in addition to different styles, different types of levhas developed as well, compositions and thematic repertoire and artists - calligraphers have developed their own style of artwork in spite of the fact that the calligraphy requires unification of print, and achieving the most sophisticated level of printing. Thus, the primary role of calligraphy levhas is aesthetic pleasure and creative expression: decorating the walls with holy messages, create a visual impression of consecrated places, and only then, as a secondary meaning, read what is written. Text of individual calligraphic composition on the objects, because of their complexity and the obscurity of its reading is sometimes difficult to read, even the best experts of the Arabic alphabet, and even those whose mother tongue is Arabic. This research is directed precisely towards this part of the calligraphic art, which is, as it seems, with design and style, at a slightly higher artistic level than any other, the above mentioned category. Much of this heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina was destroyed, and one of the reasons, in addition to the ravages of time, was the man himself. This attitude gives the impression that there was an opinion that the calligraphic art is marginalized, only decorative, secondary manifestation of Islamic art, which is certainly the wrong approach because it is the art of Islamic calligraphy that is not only an integral part of art but is already a leading artistic discipline in Islamic culture. Due to the deterioration and destruction of calligraphic art in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is unknown which level this art reached and how it was developed. Given the prevalence of this artistic discipline at the time of its greatest prosperity, from the 16th to the 18th century, one would expect a lot of data, but unfortunately in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is not much written about calligraphy nor was it documented. For this reason, and because of the lack of professional treatment and valorization of artistic disciplines, research has been difficult. This refers mainly to the claims of skilled calligraphers, because in most of the cases their works are not preserved, and it is therefore impossible to verify this kind of information. Number of calligraphers is large, and it is based on previously collected data, generally stark lists that do not provide enough information about their work, apart from a few basic biographical information, and above all data and resources are usually omitted to support the claims. Another disadvantage on the research on calligraphic art is not only the last ravages of war (1992 - 1995), but also I and the II World War, in which a significant part of this heritage was destroyed. In addition, migration and deportation of the population that occurred during the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992 - 1995 was also affected by the transfer of material goods, including calligraphic works. It is a well-known fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the last war events, many examples of Islamic art handicrafts, in various ways, fell into the hands of foreigners who have recognized their artistic value, and today they can be found on the website of the world's auction houses as a very high class exhibits for sale. Yet, despite the odds, this research have found out, identified and evaluated a number of calligraphic copies of high quality, and can serve as a step towards future research. The direct contribution of this study were levhas that were found, which are based on the analysis ascribed to certain authors, if there were any evidence for such claims. Secondary contribution of this research are other works that are not the main subject of this thesis, and it is referred to them as catalog entries for another possible research, to whom this study should serve as a starting point. Calligraphers presented in an overall view in this dissertation, and in whose work there is no insight, are selected on the basis of reliability of origin of the source. Calligraphers whose work is analyzed in this study were selected on the basis of their works that were found, exclusively calligraphic levhas. Thus, the work analyzed and evaluated 72 levhas of 22 authors. Their work is evaluated based on the quality of calligraphic achievements, and will be thus classified as trained calligrapher - Hattat or the self-taught calligrapher. Majority of these levhas are found in Sarajevo, Travnik, Vukeljići near Fojnica and a smaller number in Turkey. In the desertation there are also results of analysis of levhas on the basis of the subjects that are the most represented and which types of styles and techniques are most used. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina is no exception when it comes to canonized calligraphic compositions, which were made throughout the Islamic world, it was observed that there are several innovative solutions that have been rated as the contribution of the artist. Also, levhas that were made in Bosnia and Herzegovina have shown all the characteristics of a typical Ottoman levhas. Considering the viewpoint of protection of monuments, immediate objective of this study was to contribute to the preservation of the remains of calligraphic heritage, trying to, at least partially, produce a picture of how large was the calligraphic art in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The indirect scientific-research goal is to conduct an analysis of levhas, as one of the leading medium of this art, especially from the 18th century onwards. With this investigations and analysis there has been an attempted to carry out their evaluation, and as the conclusion of this research critically explains and presents the picture of the achieved level of calligraphic art of Bosniak calligrapher, and especially calligraphers of levhas. The time frame of this doctoral studies is conditioned by the dates when levhas of Bosniak calligrapher were found, dating from 18 to the mid-20th century. Although it can be assumed that the levhas were produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past, preserved specimens date back only to the end of this century. The research starts from levhas as artistic phenomenon of Islamic art, then analysis, determination and evaluation of those levhas that flowed from the pen of a professional calligrapher - hattata, compared to uneducated – self-taught calligraphers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is important to make this distinction within the calligraphic art in Bosnia and Herzegovina as they are trained and self-taught calligraphers and copyists, were most of the time equalized or interpolated under one name - calligraphers. Written data about calligraphy are collected as well as the information about calligraphic works in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Research is also largely based on field work that is finding and identifying, with the objective of locating, photo-documenting and autopsy of the works. The analytical methodology was applied to the evaluation of virtuosity of calligraphic skills on the levhas of Bosniak authors. In the desertation there is a critical review of the literature and the importance of existing sources for this research, in which elaborated review was presented, in chronological order and include editions from the former Yugoslavia, as well as a review of relevant literature relevant to the thesis, published in Turkish. With the theme of calligraphic art heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina, art historians have not been thoroughly dealt with, and even when they mentioned calligraphic art, they presented only basic historical and stylistic features of Islamic calligraphy, and only generaly or by chance. The previous literature, which could be called "contributions" to the study of calligraphy, rather than the serious study, and is more often work of orientalists who, within their fields of research dealt with calligraphy, and in their study or works in the Arabic language, poetry or Islamic culture in general somewhat wrote about calligraphers and their achievements. In those cases they mentioned only individuals who practiced calligraphy, and almost certainly did not engaged or elaborated about its manifestations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in this case reflected indifference and unprofessional relation to this artistic discipline. The reason for neglect of this art lies in the fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are few art historians, or there were almost not any, who dealt with calligraphic. They mostly dealt with Islamic art in general. The theoretical framework of the work represents a glossary of technical terms, or analytical processing of formal and stylistic features of Islamic calligraphy art, starting from the general morphology of the Arabic script, which, due to its specificity provided the ground for calligraphic art in Islam to developed in the forms in which they developed. This is emphasized by the terminology differences which are related to writing in Arabic script (husn-i hat) and common terms referring to the calligraphy of other alphabets. Calligraphic styles are given in its own right, with an analytical focus on the distribution of the same within stylistic guidelines, which offered distribution according to the styles and sub-styles as opposed to the current distribution according to the different pens (aklam-i site or ses kalem) which were carried out. Typology of calligraphic art primarily refers to somewhat clear and precise division of the composition and technique, which until now was to a great extent absent. Thus, the work emphasized the importance of techniques which is used in Islamic calligraphy, which so far, in a certain way passed unnoticed, in order to assess the sophistication of calligraphers, and because of necessity the new term was introduced; "classical traditional calligraphic technique." This technique allows the most appropriate assessment of calligraphy sophistication unlike other techniques that are atypical. As a significant contribution of levhas to the general aim is the analytical processing of the thems, and the most common texts, which were represented throughout the history of the Ottoman Islamic calligraphy, which are a direct contribution to this research about levhas as an artistic phenomenon of Islamic art, which was lacking. The division of calligraphic works according to the repertoire is expressed only on general level, given the fact it that requires more than one study. The work also presents the possible emergence and development of levhas, which can be traced back to the first days of the formation of Islamic art, and then further through the pages of the Quran, and through the sample letters murakke and kit'e, and finally affirmation of levhas as an independent work of art that is hanged on the wall. With a concise overview of the history of the calligraphic art in Islam, starting with the development of Arabic script in the pre-Islamic period, then to the general development of the Arabic script and calligraphy art, with an overview of the most important Ottoman calligraphers, the principle of calligraphic education is presented that includes a review of Ottoman calligraphy schools and the Istanbul schools, since Bosniak calligraphers gained their education there. The process of learning calligraphy, as well as the workbooks that were used in the learning, the so-called murakka albums is presented. As a direct result of this research the history of Islamic calligraphy art in Bosnia and Herzegovina is presented. The research was done chronologically, which allowed for a clearer picture of the impact of calligrapher by centuries. Due to the number of calligraphers and their biographical data - and with their omission review would be incomplete – they are presented in a general overview, with notes indicating the sources in which they are discussed and their works that have been found are listed. Calligraphers Bosniaks who had calligraphy instruction in Istanbul, in most cases they learned calligraphy from the famous Ottoman calligraphers. From the biography of the calligraphers it can be observed that there were two calligraphy school; one that comes from Istanbul and the other from Egypt. These calligraphers require additional research; in this study it was not possible. This study also analyzed calligraphy schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in this field it is necessary to make a more thorough of research. The main part of the research presents an analysis of levhas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the authors of those levhas, in which the artistic development of the authors were established. From 22 presented authors with 72 calligraphic levhas, 10 of those have demonstrated high performance, and who were trained calligraphers or perfected calligraphers in Istanbul. A certain number of them belong to the middle level, who could have had a calligraphy education, but did not reach perfected level, as well as a number of those who were self-taught calligraphers. From survived levhas according to the content most are defiled with Quranic verses of different composition, ranging from one-line, multiple lines, istifa, musen istifa, designed in a shape of tughra, to the design according to the material form. According to the classification by theme, the next are calligraphic works of the names of saints, which also show different compositions, and for the most part are molded in character. Levhas with poetic content are also a significant in number, but they are written almost always in the form of chronograms, mostly in straight lines in multiple rows. From calligraphy levhas on the subject of Prophet Muhammad, there are sporadic levhas with his name on it, the hadith, and the content of blessings – salavat are found exclusively in the form of molded character tughra. There are three found levhas were printing of the names of the holy family, and all three are musen istifa. Levhas themed orthodox caliphs, honorable Ali, are printed with symbols and Sufi characteristics. Calligraphic levhas in dželi sulus also have various compositions and variations, while levhas in ta'liq style are little less complex, and when istif composition are in question, they are very simple. From surviving examples it is noted that ta'liq style is commonly used for labels of tarih or short poetic text, while the dželi sulus style was used for religious motifs. Calligraphic levhas according to the quality of the writing are different in character, and from authors who had calligraphy education at the professional level originate levhas with high calligraphic value. This is evident not only in printing and composing, but also according to the signature, and then according to the other decorative elements, that is the coherent art instrumentation levhas. Thus, one of the basic elements for most decorative calligraphic levhas is border - pervaz or cetvel, which can be simple or complex, while the most complex ones are those whose corners transform into decorative motifs. Decoration on the levhas (in the certain period) is mainly of plant stylized motifs and appears in a blanket character which is continually replaced in the frieze on the sidelines. Motives with the naturalistic character appear within compositions, especially in cases when they are required to fill in the blanks or serve as a balance or counterbalance to the composition of letters, and sometimes grow out of borders and appear at its corners. These are the motives of flowers, bouquets with winding ribbons and neoclassical motifs appear in simpler geometric shape and come out of the corners with arched or in imitation drapes or curtains and the like. This doctoral thesis is accompanied by a levhas of catalog photos by the calligrapher that were found during the investigation. The catalog follows the historical sequence of calligraphers, and sometimes they show old photos taken from previous notes, due to the inability of their new photo-documentation. As other supplement, the result of the research, the genealogy or chain (silsle) of Bosniak calligraphers with their teachers is made.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Islamic calligraphy, Kaligraphic panel – levha, Calligraph – hattat, Bosniaq calligrapher – hattat, Classical traditional calligraphic technique, Calligraphic themes – texts, Calligraphic repertoire
Subjects: History of art
Departments: Department of Art History
Supervisor: Hadžimejlić, Ćazim
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij povijesti umjetnosti
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2017 09:19
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2017 09:19

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