Article - Calligraphy.


Calligraphy is one of the decorative arts and is often called the art of beautiful writing. Calligraphy occupies a special place in Islam and initially arose based on copying the Holy Qur’an. For this reason, the written word itself acquired a sacred meaning.

According to one of the hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad said: "Writing is half of Knowledge." In the medieval culture of the Crimean Khanate, the degree of mastery of the "beauty of writing", or calligraphy, became an intelligence indicator.

The early script, Kufic, which gravitated towards rectilinear, geometrized forms of letters, dominated Islamic calligraphy until the 12th century and was canonized as the script used to write the titles of the surahs of the Qur’an. At the end of the 8-9th century, the Naskh ("correspondence") script stood out and gained popularity among book scribes. It later became one of the "six styles" of classical Arabic writing along with other scripts.

Muhakkak ("correct") was distinguished by the expressiveness of clear letters, and Raikhani ("basil") – by sophistication, which was compared with the delicate scent of blooming basil. In the solemn Suls ("one third"), curvilinear and rectilinear elements were correlated in a ratio of one to three. Tauki ("decree") was denser, and Rika was the most cursive of all scripts. The six writing styles were based on the system of "oral writing" - khatt mansub, invented by the Baghdad calligrapher Ibn Mukla (886-940). It is a system of proportions that determines the ratio of vertical and horizontal elements of letters in a word and a line. Based on classical Arabic scripts, Persian calligraphers developed new styles - Talik and Nastalik, which in turn gave birth to many decorative, exquisite scripts. In the 15-17 centuries, a peculiar genre of calligraphy, Kita, a sample of one or more script, spread across Turkey and Crimea.

The writing instrument was a kalam - a reed pen, whose sharpening method depended on the chosen style and traditions of the school. In one of the treatises of the 14th century, it is written: "The kalam is sharpened obliquely, and bear in mind that the tip of the kalam must correspond to the length of the thumb phalanx, but Baghdad scribes sharpen it along the length of the nail ...". The materials used for writing were papyrus, parchment and paper, the production of which was established in Samarkand and some other cities of the Muslim world. The sheets were covered with starch paste and polished with the crystal egg, which made paper thick and durable as well as the letters and patterns applied in colored ink - clear, bright, and shiny.

Calligraphy of the Crimean Khanate

Among the many collections of oriental manuscripts representing the oriental art of applied graphics, one should note the collection of epistles (mohabbat-name) and letters of agreement (shert-name) of the Crimean khans and princes of the 17th century, kept in the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts. The letters decorated with tughras are priceless examples of the Crimean Tatar decorative-applied art of the late Middle Ages and the only monument of the Crimean Tatar graphics of that time that has survived to this day. Tughras (a calligraphically executed signature-monogram) and accompanying floral and plant ornaments are the main source of the irresistible charm of the Crimean letters.

In the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and Crimea, the tughra was also used outside the clerical office: it was minted on coins, it adorned public buildings and jewelry. However, it had the greatest use in state acts (letters of agreement and grant, messages to other sovereigns).

The art of modern calligraphy

Historians attribute the emergence of Crimean tughras to the middle of the 16th century, when Sahib Giray II was on the Crimean Khan throne. The earliest surviving calligraphic tughra - of Prince Mohammed Giray - dates back to 1576. Since the time of the khans of Sahib-Giray or Devlet-Giray, tughras were present in the mohabbat-name (messages) and shert-name (letters of agreement) of the khans and princes until the seizure of Crimea by Russia in 1783.

The tughra’s calligraphic sign was perceived as the imperious symbol of khan Giray dynasty, equal in value to the tamga (family sign, coat of arms). The right to possess this sign was granted to persons who embodied the highest power in the state. They reminded the khan’s and the sovereigns’ subjects - the addressees of the khan's court - about the Chingizid origin of the Girays and the patronage of the Girays from the Ottomans. Genetic first-degree kinship went back to the banner of Genghis Khan with a black moon, decorated with nine white ponytails, and second-degree - to the banner (tugh) of the Ottoman padishahs with seven or nine ponytails.

The Crimean tughra is an unsurpassed example of the asymmetric composition of the heraldic sign. The blue-gold tughra of Janibek-Giray II of 1630, brilliant in its coloristic solution, retains its predecessors' static character, although there were some dynamically built replicas of the Ottoman signs, which by that time had reached the zenith of perfection. Only in the second half of the 30s of the 17th century did the tughra of Crimean khans and princes acquire its classic look. Crimean ressams (artists) and khattats (scribes), who relied on the great Turkish and Persian masters' traditions, managed to maintain and develop an impeccable organization of graphic material. Dynamism of lines, optimal ratio of variable line thickness, compositional closeness of vertical and horizontal parabolic movements are all the design features of the Crimean tughra graphics.

The color scheme of the Crimean three-banner coat of arms is extremely diverse, although the main colors used were gold (gold powder was mixed with glue and applied to paper with a brush or cane kalem) and ink with gold glitter (the black ink line was sprinkled with gold powder - the yildiz technique). The main line of tughras is accompanied by a thin outline of a different color. Khans Inayet-Giray I and Bogadyr-Giray I, in particular, left some copies that combine a gold line with a brown and turquoise outline. One of qalga Feth-Giray's tughras combines a black line with a red outline.

The decorative accompaniment of the Crimean symbols of statehood demonstrates wonderful examples of Crimean Tatar ornamental graphics. The examples are valuable because in composition and style of patterns as well as in color scheme, they distinctly differ from samples of other schools of oriental ornamental graphics and constitute an independent Crimean Tatar school, previously unknown to researchers of oriental art.

Calligraphy design

The motifs of a blossoming or an open rosehip bud and a five-leaf corolla with pointed petals, which we see on several copies of the letters, speak of a relationship with the Crimean Tatar schools of ceramics, carpet weaving and patterned textiles. Spiral organization of stems, wavy lines make the patterns related to the Turkish school of clerical art, and "trees" and "bouquets" with symmetrical branches-stems and large petal leaves are characteristic of Turkish and Persian carpets of the 16th century. Tulips and roses, carnations and rose hips growing in the shadow of the Crimean tughra resulted from the many years of work by Crimean artists. The forbs of the steppe and foothills of Crimea, the smells of the steppe in its colors, the contours of saffron and thyme were used by the masters, preserving a special Crimean artistic style for posterity.

The names of the ressams (artists) of the Crimean khans and princes remain unknown. Nevertheless, the creative personality of each master is recognizable. Based on the generalization of the stylistic features of their drawings, two masters can be distinguished. Ornaments mohabbat-name of Janibek-Giray II (1640), shert-name of khan Bogadyr-Giray from the last days of the month of Dhu al-Qa’dah 1045 AH, also his mohabbat-name for 1637, mohabbat-name of qalga Husam-Giray from the last days of Dhu al-Hijjah 1044, shert-name of Khan Inayet-Giray from the last days of Rabi’ al-Awwal 1046 belong to the same artist. On all the listed sheets, everything is done in a style that brings the drawing closer to metal engraving. The golden color scheme of the image with rare splashes of crimson, lilac and blue colors, the dynamic saturation of graphic structures and compositional solutions, the presence of the dragon motif in the floral ornament are the most striking distinctive qualities of the creations of the court ressam of the three khans.

In the Muslim world, no variety of calligraphy existed outside of its own writing style or script. The script used for business writing was never used for writing love. The script used to write poetry was never used for the correspondence of the khans. The offices of the khans and princes of Crimean yurt in their correspondence with Moscow and other European capitals relied on the “Divani” style. The initial lines of the text, mentions of the Almighty and the Prophet Muhammad, the names and titles of khans, kings and princes in many muhabbat-name and shert-name are spelled out in gold or sprinkled with golden sand. A feature of the Crimean letters is wide margins on the right edge and narrow ones on the left, the lines rise up on the left edge of the text. The endless rows of letters of epistles and agreements, here and there shimmering with gold, on a strip of ivory-colored paper, make an inexplicable impression with their grandeur.

(Based on the materials of historian Sagit Faizov)

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