Şeyh Hamdullah on the 500th Anniversary of His Death

Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) commemorates Şeyh Hamdullah, the founder of Ottoman calligraphy and the great calligrapher of Fatih Sultan Mehmed and Bayezid II’s times, with an exhibition on the 500th anniversary of his death.

The calligrapher Şeyh Hamdullah was born in Amasya. His father was Mustafa Dede, sheikh of the Sühreverdiyye mystic order and a member of the Sarıkadızâde family. He migrated from Bukhara to Amasya. During the Seljuk period and the Ottoman years of conquest, poets, calligraphers, artists and religious scholars migrated from cultural centres such as Herat, Khorasan and Samarkand, to Anatolian cities like Konya, Kayseri, Sivas and Amasya. Hamdullah studied the aklâm-ı sitte (six scripts) under Hayreddin Mar‘aşî in Amasya, which had become a centre for the art of calligraphy. He probably met Şehzade Bayezid (the future Bayezid II) at gatherings held by his father Şeyh Mustafa Dede. Bayezid appointed Şeyh Hamdullah as his calligraphy teacher and received his diploma from him.

Şeyh Hamdullah began to acquire a reputation as an outstanding calligrapher while still in Amasya and during that period made copies of several manuscripts for the personal library of Sultan Mehmed II.

When Bayezid II acceded to the throne in 1481 after a struggle for power with his younger brother Cem Sultan, he invited his calligraphy master to the court and Şeyh Hamdullah moved to Istanbul with his family. Şeyh Hamdullah began to do his finest work after his court appointment and from then on signed his work with his name and the title “scribe to sultan Bayezid Han.

”After Bayezid II renounced the throne in favour of his son Selim I in 1512, Şeyh Hamdullah withdrew from society. During the reign of Sultan Selim I he spent his time at home, praying and receiving visits from his students. When Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent succeeded his father Selim I in 1520, he invited Şeyh Hamdullah to the palace, received him respectfully and asked him to write a Koran for him. However, the calligrapher excused himself on account of his old age and recommended Muhyiddin Amâsî instead; at which Süleyman presented him with a sable-lined robe and received his blessing.

Müstakimzâde relates that Şeyh Hamdullah died a few months later and records the following chronogram in couplet form giving the calligrapher’s date of death as H. 926/1520: “Şeyh Hamdullāh olup küttâba kıble pîr-i hat / Rihletinde dil dedi târîhini dayf-i ilâh.” Şeyh Hamdullah was a man who attached no importance to worldly prestige and status, and asked that his name not be inscribed on his tombstone. The inscription on his tombstone was written later by Şâhin Ağa (d. 1701), court calligrapher to Sultan Mustafa II.

Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Arts of the Book and Calligraphy Collection includes rare works by Şeyh Hamdullah and his contemporaries, calligraphers on the path of Şeyh and master illuminators of the 16th century. The exhibition organized by SSM with the selected works from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, Sadberk Hanım Museum and Kubbealtı Academy Culture and Art Foundation, Ekrem Hakkı Ayverdi Collection, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the calligrapher's death, includes rare manuscript books, copies of the Koran, continents (kıt’a) and albums from early 15th century and late 16th century. The works, which could not be lent due to pandemic conditions, from Topkapı Palace Museum of the Department of National Palaces, the Süleymaniye Library of the Department of Turkish Manuscripts, Istanbul University Rare Books Library, Dallas Museum of Art and the Kestner Museum in Hannover, are presented in a digital installation. A book accompanies the exhibition.


Koran, nesih and sülüs scripts, c. 1500, SSM 100-0269
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En’am-ı Şerif, nesih and muhakkak scripts, anonymous calligrapher, c. 1500, SSM 101-0336
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Prayer Book, nesih script, Hüseyin Şah (d. ?), one of Şeyh Hamdullah’s (d. 1520) most prominent followers, c. 1520, SSM 103-0361
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Kıt’a, sülüs and nesih scripts, attributed to Şeyh Hamdullah (d. 1520) by Kamil Akdik (d. 1941), late 15th century – early 16th century, SSM 110-0457
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Murakka, sülüs and nesih scripts, Şeyh Hamdullah (d. 1520), SSM 120-0045
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Calligraphic album, sülüs and nesih scripts, Şeyh Hamdullah (d. 1520), SSM 120-0243
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Koran, nesih, muhakkak and reyhani scripts, Cemal Amâsî (d. ?), a contemporary calligrapher of Şeyh Hamdullah (d. 1520) from Amasya, 913/1507, TİEM T.97

Prayer Anthology, muhakkak and rıka scripts, Şeyh Hamdullah (d. 1520), early 16th century, Kubbealtı Academy Culture and Art Foundation Collection, XIV/14


Koran, nesih, kufi and rıka scripts, early 16th century, SSM 100-0270
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