The Gaze in the Album of Ahmed I

In: Muqarnas Online

This essay explores the visual rhythms of an album prepared for the Ottoman sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603–1617), examines how they direct the gaze, and investigates the tools used to guide the viewer’s experience of the object. The album works as an aid to the “scrutinizing gaze” (imʿān-i naẓar), and the album maker’s interventions were intended to guide viewers to a higher level of understanding by encouraging them to gaze with contemplation. Some of the tactics employed include the inclusion of a vast variety of material with unusual subject matter; the establishment of word-image relationships among the elements on a single page or on an opening of two pages; the loose organization of visual materials to suggest narratives; and the construction of relationships across frames that are at times purely predicated on the visual. Most important, the album pages invite the eye to go back and forth, and to use the comparative gaze. 


  • 1

    Kalender, Album of Ahmed I, ca. 1610, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, Ms. B. 408, fol. 2b, as transliterated and translated by Wheeler M. Thackston in appendix II of Serpil Bağcı, “Presenting Vaṣṣāl Kalender’s Works: The Prefaces of Three Ottoman Albums,” Muqarnas 30 (2013): 255–313, at 303, 305–6: dāyimā cevāhir-i ʿirfān-ı ‛avārif ü le’ālī-i ma‛ānī vü ma‛ārif birle ḳalb-i laṭīfleri memlū olmaġile ol dürer-i ġurer-i ṣanāyi‛ ü bedāyi‛i sarāy-ı bī‛-ayb u serāperde-i lāreybde olan enfüs-i nefāyis-i maḳālāt ve aḥsen-i maḥāsin-i muṣavverāt benāt-ı nükāta ḥilye-i ḥulel-i elfāẓ u ebṣārla zīver ü zīb verüp zīnet-i dilfirīb ile ḳulūb-ı cihānbānı firīfte ve ṭab‛-ı ehl-i dilānı alüfte vü āşüfte itmişlerdür. For an overview of the album and its preface, see Bağcı, “Presenting Vaṣṣāl Kalender’s Works,” 263–69; Emine Fetvacı, “The Album of Ahmed I,” Ars Orientalis 42 (2012): 127–38; Ahmed Süheyl Ünver, “L’Album d’Ahmed Ier,” Annali dell’Istituto Universitario orientale di Napoli, n.s., 13 (1963): 127–62.

  • 5

    Necipoğlu, Topkapı Scroll, 204.

  • 6

    Avinoam Shalem, “The Idol (Sanam) or the Man without a Soul: A Short Note on a Unique Illustration in the Kalila wa Dimna Manuscript (cod. Arab. 625) in the Bavarian State Library in Munich,” in The Phenomenon of “Foreign” in Oriental Art,ed. Annette Hagedorn (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2006), 61–70, esp. 64–65. Shalem quotes from Kalila and Dimna; or,The Fables of Bidpai, trans. Wyndham Knatchbull (Oxford: W. Baxter for J. Parker, 1819; repr., Cairo, 1905), 48, and points to the Arabic original in Kitab Kalila wa Dimna (Beirut, n.d.), 63.

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  • 12

    Emine Fetvacı, “Enriched Narratives and Empowered Images in Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Manuscripts,” Ars Orientalis 40 (2011): 243–66. The same was true of Safavid courtiers, too, and built on Timurid-era practices.

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  • 13

    See David J. Roxburgh, The Persian Album, 1400–1600: From Dispersal to Collection (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005), fig. 108.

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  • 20

    Gülru Necipoğlu, “Word and Image: The Serial Portraits of Ottoman Sultans in Comparative Perspective,” in The Sultan’s Portrait: Picturing the House of Osman, ed. Selmin Kangal, exh. cat., Topkapı Palace Museum (Istanbul: İş Bankası, 2000), 22–61.

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  • 21

    Emine Fetvacı, “From Print to Trace: An Ottoman Imperial Portrait Book and Its Western European Models,” Art Bulletin 95, 2 (June 2013): 243–68.

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  • 22

    Gülru Necipoğlu, “Challenging the Past: Sinan and the Competitive Discourse of Early Modern Islamic Architecture,” Muqarnas 10 (1993): 169–80, esp. 176.

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  • 23

    Walter Feldman, “Imitatio in Ottoman Poetry: Three Ghazals of the Mid-Seventeenth Century,” Turkish Studies Association Bulletin 21, 2 (1997): 41–58, esp. 42.

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  • 24

    Walter Andrews, “Starting Over Again: Some Suggestions for Rethinking Ottoman Divan Poetry in the Context of Translation and Transmission,” in Translations: (Re)Shaping of Literature and Culture,ed. Saliha Paker (Istanbul: Boğaziçi University Press, 2002), 15–37.

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  • 25

    Walter Andrews, “Starting Over Again: Some Suggestions for Rethinking Ottoman Divan Poetry in the Context of Translation and Transmission,” in Translations: (Re)Shaping of Literature and Culture,ed. Saliha Paker (Istanbul: Boğaziçi University Press, 2002), 15–37.

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  • 26

    Hatice Aynur, “Ottoman Literature,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey, ed. Suraiya Faroqhi(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006–9), 4:503.

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  • 27

    Fatih Köksal, Sana Benzer Güzel Olmaz: Divan Şiirinde Nazire (Ankara: Akçaǧ Yayınları, 2006), 70.

  • 28

    Fatih Köksal, Sana Benzer Güzel Olmaz: Divan Şiirinde Nazire (Ankara: Akçaǧ Yayınları, 2006), 70. The collection is in the Topkapı Palace Library, Ms. B 406.

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  • 29

    Feldman, “Imitatio in Ottoman Poetry,” 43.

  • 30

    Aynur, “Ottoman Literature,” 483, 496.

  • 31

    According to Haluk İpekten, Karamanlı Nizâmî Divanı (Ankara: Atatürk Üniversitesi Yayınları, 1974), 27, since naẓīre collections include poems that have a wide variety of relationships to earlier poems, our definition of naẓīre must also be kept loose.

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  • 34

    Roxburgh, “Eye Is Favored,” 7–15.

  • 38

    See David J. Roxburgh, “Jong,” in Encyclopedia Iranica, www/iranicaonline.org (accessed May 26, 2014).

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