Research Article

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2023.19.1134702   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2023.19.1134702    Full Text (PDF)

Tree Species in Ottoman Miniature Art (16th-Century)

Tuba Ruhengiz Azaklı

The concept of the tree, which is encountered as a motif in every branch of art throughout history, has been the subject of various research and studies in each art specifically. In this context, it is valuable to examine the trees, which are an integral part and an important element of the composition in miniatures, in terms of their species. Within the scope of the research examined a large number of manuscripts from the sixteenth century. In the analysis of tree samples of these works, which contain the richest examples of the classical period, historical sources, travel books and documents were used, as well as botanical science in the determination of tree species. As a result of the findings, it can be said that many of the tree species in nature can be identified in the Ottoman miniature by the described geography. Among the tree species seen in the period, cypress, plane tree and date palm are formed, fruit trees, coniferous trees, poplar, Aesculus hippocastanum, oak and exceptional tree specimens have also been encountered. This study reveals how rich the tree (wood) inventory of the 16th-century Ottoman miniature was, as well as the richness of style and design of the period. 

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2023.19.1134702   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2023.19.1134702    Full Text (PDF)

Osmanlı Minyatür Sanatında Ağaç Türleri (16. Yüzyıl)

Tuba Ruhengiz Azaklı

Tarih boyunca sanatın her şubesinde motif olarak karşılaşılan ağaç mefhumu, her bir sanat özelinde çeşitli araştırma ve çalışmalara konu olmaktadır. Bu bağlamda minyatürlerde kompozisyonun ayrılmaz parçası ve mühim bir unsuru olan ağaçların, türleri yönüyle incelenmesi değerlidir. Araştırma kapsamında Osmanlı minyatür sanatındaki ağaç türleri, 16. yüzyıla ait çok sayıda yazma eser üzerinden incelemeye tabi tutulmuştur. Klasik dönemin zengin örnekleri üzerinden yapılan bu tahlillerde tarih kaynakları, seyahatnameler ve belgelerin kullanılmasının yanı sıra ağaç türlerinin tespitinde botanik ilminden yararlanılmıştır. İncelemeler ışığında 16. yüzyıl minyatüründe, Doğu’daki fantastik bezemenin yerini alan realist tavrın ağaç örneklerine büyük ölçüde yansıdığı ve ağaçların minyatürün belgesel değerine katkı sağladığı görülmüştür. Örneklerde tabiat unsurlarının gerçek görünümüne yaklaştığı ve ağaç türlerinin belirginleştiği fark edilmektedir. Bulgular neticesinde, betimlenen coğrafyayla uyumlu olarak Osmanlı minyatüründe tabiattaki ağaç türlerinin birçoğunun teşhis edilebildiği söylenebilir. Dönemin minyatürlerinde görülen ağaç türleri arasında servi, bahar dalı, çınar, hurma ile birlikte meyve ağaçları, iğne yapraklı ağaçlar, kavak, at kestanesi, meşe ve türü belirgin biçimde anlaşılan istisnai ağaç örneklerine de tesadüf edilmiştir. Yapılan bu çalışma 16. yüzyıl Osmanlı minyatürünün ne denli zengin ağaç envanterine sahip olduğunu ortaya çıkarmanın yanı sıra dönemin üslup ve tasarım çeşitliliğini de gözler önüne sermektedir.


Miniature manuscripts, which have survived the geography that the Ottoman Empire ruled for six centuries and fill various libraries and museums of the world today, are treasures still waiting to be discovered with the research done so far. These works have been the subject of various studies to date within the framework of their subjects, the elements of the depictions or specific subjects such as composition, color and technique. The fact that the tree examples in miniature art have a richness of style, design and species has been a motivating and exciting issue in the selection of the subject. The main goal of our research is to examine the tree species in Ottoman miniature art through examples of the 16th-century. Within the scope of the study, after evaluating the prominent miniatures of the period in terms of trees, stylistic examination and research were made to determine whether they were suitable for historical reality or not, and the consistency of these trees with geographical vegetation was tried to be detected. Within the scope of the research, a prestudy on botanical science and illustration was carried out and support was received from specialized researchers. Besides, in the context of the subject of the description, the sources of the period, travel notes and travelogues benefited.

Many tree species in nature look similar to each other. Species are divided into many varieties, even within themselves. Therefore, it is sometimes not possible to make a definitive judgment about the absolute types of trees painted in miniature art. Some hints are needed to partially detect the species. It is difficult to name a tree that has no leaves and no trunk texture is shown. Or a leaf mass that is far from detail, similar to many different trees, and its resemblance to a specific species cannot be predicted. In this case, support is taken from the subject of the description, its geography and the information in the sources. Diagnosis is much easier in naturalistic examples where the miniature artist gives clear clues to show the tree type. Within the scope of the research, these trees were mostly evaluated. In these trees, the species is understood by looking at the form of the leaf, the leaf array and direction, the colour and texture of the trunk, the height of the tree and the general appearance. It is much easier to determine the species of some trees with characteristic features. 

Cupressus is one of the most preferred tree species in Ottoman miniature. Particularly in the background of the sultan’s assemblies, the Cupressus, lined up with the upper parts of which are visible, have become the classical background of the Ottoman miniature. Cupressus illustrated a great design richness in classical period works despite characteristic appearance.

Blooming trees, the heralds of the spring season, are another group of trees that are excessively seen in miniature art. These flowering trees, known as the spring branch, display diversity according to the style of the miniature artist, accompanied by leaves, buds and seeds with different appearances. Except for a small number of examples where the spring branches are described in the foreground and detailed, it is mostly seen to be entangled in a cypress tree and obscured. 

Another tree that is diverse in Ottoman miniature with its different designs is the sycamore tree. The trunks of these trees, which are often described in the foreground with detail and with exquisite workmanship, are mostly thick and lively with hollows, cavities and deep shadowing. Grey colour tones were frequently preferred on the body and yellow and red colours along with green on the leaves. 

A tree species seen in realistic examples with documentary value is poplar. The main work where poplar trees can be identified is Mecmû-ı Menâzil which belongs to Matrakçı Nasuh. In the work, poplar trees with similar baselines are designed in different ways with various forms of green in the areas that are accommodated during the Iraq journey. It is also possible to see the poplar tree in the descriptions of the nakkashane products of the classical period.

The leading trees depicted locally in Ottoman miniatures are palm species. Particularly in Siyar al-Nabi, which is about the life of the Prophet, these trees are illustrated with various details as the most significant trees in Arab geography. Mecmû-ı Menâzil, which is about Kanuni’s (1494-1566) expedition to Iran, draws attention as a work that includes original date trees. These trees, which are illustrated as a naturalist, have a wide variety of appearances young or ripe, fruity or non-fruity, with few or lush leaves.

In the miniatures of the 16th-century, sphere-shaped trees similar to oak, hackberry or terebinth are often coincident encountered. The decent-shaped trunks of these trees, which are called ball trees by today’s artisans, are divided into several branches close to each other at the part where the leaves begin, and the circular leaf mass rises on these branches. 

In the miniatures of the 16th-century, it is possible to see many fruit trees. Cherry, pomegranate, apple and quince, apricot, almond, pear and peach trees were diagnosed in documentary examples. In the Ottoman miniature, leafless willow trees, horse chestnut, olive, ash-like multi-leaf trees and coniferous tree species such as pistachio pine, larch, yellow pine, red pine, fir, cedar and juniper are also encountered. It can be stated that many of the tree species can be diagnosed by the geography described in the Ottoman miniature.

In the light of such analysis, it was observed that the realist attitude of 16th-century miniature art was reflected in these illustrations to a great extent and added value of their position as reflections from the past, like a documentary. This study reveals how rich the tree inventory of the 16th-century Ottoman miniature was, as well as the richness of style and design of the period.  

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Azaklı, T.R. (2023). Tree Species in Ottoman Miniature Art (16th-Century). Art-Sanat, 0(19), 49-77.


Azaklı T R. Tree Species in Ottoman Miniature Art (16th-Century). Art-Sanat. 2023;0(19):49-77.


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Azaklı TR. Tree Species in Ottoman Miniature Art (16th-Century). Art-Sanat [Internet]. 20 Jul. 2024 [cited 20 Jul. 2024];0(19):49-77. Available from: doi: 10.26650/artsanat.2023.19.1134702


Azaklı, TubaRuhengiz. Tree Species in Ottoman Miniature Art (16th-Century)”. Art-Sanat 0/19 (Jul. 2024): 49-77.


Published Online31.01.2023


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