Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, three imperial powers dominated the Islamic world—the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals. Militarily, the Ottomans were the most formidable, and their realm was the most extensive. With the capital in Istanbul, the empire spread at its height to Africa, Europe, and Asia. Despite the empire’s diversity, the Ottomans developed a remarkably unified artistic idiom. The court established a design studio whose models were disseminated to court workshops specializing in particular media. Two artists who directed the design studio during the sixteenth century—Shahquli and Kara Memi—created distinct styles that defined Ottoman visual art for centuries.

Working with court designs, ceramic artists in Istanbul and Iznik experimented with an increasing range of colors from the late fifteenth through the sixteenth century. The taste for the blue-and-white palette of Chinese porcelain expanded to include turquoise, then purple and sage green, and ultimately the famous bright red and emerald green. In the sixteenth century Ottoman rulers preferred Chinese porcelain for their tableware, though the wealthy favored Iznik ceramics, which were also exported in great quantities to Europe.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
'Alam (finial ornament) for a Battle Standard. Inscribed in Arabic, "There is no God but God".
Work Type
17th century
Creation Place: Middle East
Ottoman period
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
H: 38.7 x estimated width: 14 x estimated depth: 4.1 cm (15 1/4 x 5 1/2 x 1 5/8 in.)
[Soustiel, Paris, May 1970], sold; to Edwin Binney, 3rd, 1970, bequest; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1985.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard Art Museums
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Edwin Binney III, Turkish Treasures from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd, exh. cat., Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR, 1979), page 228-229/figure 4

Exhibition History

The Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/16/1987 - 08/02/1987

Shadows of God On Earth: Arts of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Dynasties, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/21/1997 - 08/31/1997

Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008

Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at