Presenting Vaṣṣāl Kalender’s Works: The Prefaces of Three Ottoman Albums

In: Muqarnas Online

Kalender Pasha (d. 1616), an Ottoman artist-cum-statesman, was a renowned paper joiner (vaṣṣāl). He assembled two albums and compiled a Falnāma (Book of Omens) for Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603–17). Among these, only one of the albums consisted of calligraphies and images provided by the sultan himself, while the others were assembled from works chosen by Kalender, probably from his personal collection. Composed of diverse contents and for varied purposes but in nearly identical format, the albums reflect Kalender’s own style and approach to album designing. These three volumes, which have approximately identical dimensions, contain prefaces that are directly related to their contents and are all, save one, authored by Kalender himself. The prefaces, or presentation texts, addressed to Sultan Ahmed I, drew on the Safavid tradition of album prefaces, although they contextually diverge from them. They provide invaluable information on the relationship between an Ottoman album-compiler and his work, as well as on the artistic identity of Kalender. This essay introduces these particular interrelated works and attempts to analyze the prefaces in relation to the included items, their purpose, and the patron of the albums. Appendices by Wheeler M. Thackston provide the transliterations of the texts of two album prefaces, as well as translations into English.

  • 18

    ʿÂli, Menāḳıb, 6, 55.

  • 20

    ʿÂli, Menāḳıb, 7, 8, 53.

  • 23

    H. 2171, fol. 22b: “…ḥālā manṣıb-i celīl-i ḳażā’-ı ʿasākir-i Rūm İli ile ser-efrāz ve sāʾir-i ʿulemādan mümtāz eylemişdür....”

  • 25

    H. 2171, fol. 22a.

  • 26

    H. 2171, fol. 22b.

  • 28

    H. 2171, fols. 17b–18a. The identification of the creation of the universe with the creation of an album was a trope also used by Timurid writers. See Roxburgh, Prefacing the Image, 89–90, 92.

  • 29

    H. 2171, fols. 18a–18b.

  • 30

    H. 2171, fols. 18b–19a.

  • 31

    H. 2171, fol. 19a.

  • 32

    H. 2171, fol. 19b.

  • 34

    H. 2171, fols. 21a–21b: “…peerless in joining paper, in the art of album making (kār-i vaṣṣāli ve ṣanʿat-ı muraḳḳaʿ-sāzī), and…highly esteemed and recognized among the Ottoman and Persian masters” (miyān-ı üstādān-ı Rūm u ʿAcemde maḳbūl ü müsellemdür).

  • 35

    H. 2171, fol. 21b: deḳāʾiḳ-i naḳş u taṣvīre vāḳıf u vāṣıl ve ḳalb-i şerīfi kütüb-i nefīse ve muraḳḳaʿāt-ı laṭīfeye māʾil idügi ẓāhir olmışdur....

  • 36

    For these notes in H. 2153, fol. 87b, and H. 2160, fol. 4a, see Filiz Çağman, “On the Contents of the Four Istanbul Albums H. 2152, 2153, 2154, and 2160,” in Between China and Iran: Paintings from Four Istanbul Albums; A Colloquy Held 23–26 June 1980, ed. Ernst. J. Grube and Eleanor Sims (New York, 1985), 34, fig. 16.

  • 37

    H. 2171, fol. 21b.

  • 38

    H. 2171, fol. 21b.

  • 39

    H. 2171, fol. 22a.

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