The Green Complex of Sultan Mehmed I and its context
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CitationPoier, Veronika. 2021. The Green Complex of Sultan Mehmed I and its context. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Dissertation Advisor Gülru Necipoğlu Author Veronika Poier
The Green Complex of Sultan Mehmed I and its context
This dissertation interprets the Green Complex of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed I (r. 1413-1421) in Bursa. The pious foundation of Mehmed I in Bursa referenced the architectural conventions of the ghazis from the 1330s, albeit updated with slight twists, such as a heightened emphasis on religious orthodoxy in its decoration and inscriptions and a more pronounced sultanic presence. The crucial question is not whether, but how the civil war that followed his father Bayezid I’s defeat by Timur (1402-13) recalibrated the established dynamics of sultanic and vizierial patronage for Mehmed´s reign.
In 1402, the death of Bayezid I in Timurid captivity spurred a spiral of violence about his succession. The ensuing civil war between Bayezid´s sons lasted until 1413, whence Mehmed I emerged victorious. Yet, the political situation remained fragile. Compared to his older brother Emir Süleyman (1377-1411) Mehmed Çelebi´s young age and lack of expertise were perceived as an issue. Indeed, he was only fourteen when Bayezid died and twenty-three when he became Sultan. Mehmed´s sobriquet, “young Lord,” further emphasized his youthful age. To counter the critical voices, the Ottoman chronicles from the period underlined the legitimacy of Mehmed I´s rule. The anonymous chronicle Aḥvāl-i Sulṭān Meḥemmed stressed that Çelebi Mehmed´s military and political talent (devlet) compensated for his youth. The hagiographical epic Halīlnāme (Book of the Prophet Abraham) by Abdülvasi Çelebi (d. 1414) endowed by Mehmed´s grand vizier Bayezid Pasha (d. 1421), equally glorified the sultan.
It is crucial in this context that the Green Complex embodies the continued legacy of Sultan Bayezid I through his son Mehmed I. Given the unstable political situation, the court and the sultan were invested in the upkeep of the dynastic lineage. This concern is expressed in the legal set-up of the foundation, via its architectural layout and through its decoration down to the epigraphy of the tile panels. The sultanic complex of Mehmed I comprises a T-type zaviye, a madrasa, an imaret and a türbe, which was built posthumously. The layout of the Green Zaviye closely follows the local tradition of T-shaped buildings with its five-domed portico and a central lantern introduced in the complex of Mehmed I’s father, Bayezid I.
An overall program in line with the wishes of the sultan and the courtiers is evident in the coordination of layout and decoration: in terms of language and position, the epigraphy is aligned to the potential use and the users of the space. The charismatic vizier of Bursa, Hacı İvaz Pasha (d.1428) was presumably the courtier in charge of the construction and decoration of the zaviye. A panel next to the chronogram states that the building was “drawn by him, arranged by him,” and that “he fixed its principles.” Inside, above the sultanic lodge, a second inscription indicates the name of the head designer, Naqqaş Ali. Besides these two names, a number of artists left their signatures in the complex: we find the name of the tilemaker Mehmed al-Majnun (the inspired or possessed Mehmed) on a tile inside the sultanic lodge, as well as the collective signature of the group of craftsmen from Tabriz on the mihrab tile, complemented by the wooden door of the türbe, which was signed as a work of ʿAli b. Haji Ahmed Tabrizi.
The presence of the foreign artists is visible in the zaviye, the octagonal türbe as well as the madrasa, all of which display a wide spectrum of artistic techniques, some associated with Central Asia and Iran. These range from the silver-inlay of the window grilles typical for Turkmen metalwork, to the murals which resemble examples from Yazd and Samarkand, to a host of tile making techniques including black line, tile mosaic, carved and glazed terracotta, monochrome and gilded monochrome glazed tiles as we see them on important Timurid monuments. To situate the complex in the post-interregnum artistic production, it is crucial to ask whether the so-called “International Timurid-Turkmen style” still carried political meaning in the new location. So far, it has been taken for granted that the non-local techniques at the complex, such as the black line technique, emulated the style promulgated at the Timurid courts in Central Asia and Iran. Yet even though most studies addressed the questions of exchange and stylistic choice, they generally omitted a proper contextualization of the local and global political setting.
Together with a study of the relevant primary sources, the foundation allows us a glimpse at Sultan Mehmed´s patronage during his last years in power. The boastful rhetoric of the buildings is in stark contrast to the instability of Mehmed´s reign, which becomes even more evident after his early death in May 1421. His son inherited a somewhat consolidated, yet still fragile domain from his father and was confronted with his own succession struggle before he was established as Murad II.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370144
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