Turkish Handicrafts: Gateway to History
Talk to an art historian and they’ll tell you that there is no separation between “art” and “history”; that the study of one is the study of the other. It’s hard to disagree if you take a closer look. From the classical Greek ideals embodied in the Nike of Samothrace to the cultural shifts reflected in (and to a degree caused by) Manet’s “Dejeuner Sur l'herbe” to study art is to study history and vise-versa. Perhaps nowhere is this link between art and history more apparent than in Turkey. The region has occupied the fulcrum between East and West for thousands of years and Turkish crafts reflect its unique geographic and historical positioning.
The Dawn of History: From Jewelry to Pottery and Beyond
Much of what we know about Western history can trace its roots to art discoveries made over the centuries in the area now known as Turkey. Our knowledge of the Hittites for example is based largely on interpretations of intricate gold and bronze ornamental work uncovered at Alacahöyük and Çatalhöyük that date back several millennia. We are also able to trace and date the transition from Hittite to Lydian and then later to Persian influence in the area by studying pottery found at various locations around modern day Turkey. This pottery tradition would continue unbroken into the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods and is alive and well today in the form of the Turkish ceramics tradition as practiced by contemporary masters like Nimet Varli.
The Silk Road and Turkish Carpets
If you’d like to learn something of the history and influence of the Silk Road on the cultures of Asia Minor you typically need only study the history and development of what is today the Turkish carpet industry. Beautiful, hand woven carpets from the area of present day Turkey tell the tale of Turkic, Caucasian, Kurdic and Armenian migrants who came to the region along the Silk Road from Central Asia, as well as the rise and fall of Byzantium and the rise and ultimate triumph of Islamic culture and iconography.
History and the Humble Mosaic Lamp
Today’s Turkish glass industry is another component of the Turkish crafts tradition dripping in historical allusions and connotations. Information on the area that is now Turkey during the medieval period is extremely difficult to come by. Huge blocks of time during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries in this crucial part of the world are devoid of any significant written historical account. As a result, if you would like to know more about the Seljuk Empire, for example, you need to study their decorative glass ware tradition; a tradition that was foundational in regards to present day Turkish glassware handicrafts. What your studies will demonstrate is that Seljuk culture was influenced less by Byzantine culture than was previously thought and that their decorative glassware - including oil lamps, the predecessors of today’s Turkish mosaic lamps - indicates an independent aesthetic path.
Turkish Painted Miniatures: Beating European Illustrated Manuscripts to the Historical Punch
The Turkish painted miniature tradition is another which, if fully investigated, has a rich tale to tell regarding the historical life of Anatolia/Asia Minor/Turkey. Painted miniatures date back as far as the 8th century when they were used as historical devices that illustrated important events during the reigns of various emirs battling the ascendant Muslim armies. In fact the oldest illustrated book in the world came from this time and can still be seen in the Tun-Huang monastery of Uygur Turks. Today, contemporary Turkish artists are taking the painted miniature tradition in new and exciting directions but their foundations are rooted firmly in, and illustrative of, the history of the region.
The bottom line is that, if you want to acquire an in depth knowledge of the cultural crossroads today known as Turkey, you’ll need to spend time studying the history of its handicrafts. There’s knowledge in that hand-woven rug, a story to tell in that piece of contemporary Turkish ceramics and voices calling to us from across the ocean of time in that illustrated Turkish miniature painting. Paykoc Imports is proud to present a splendid array of traditional Turkish crafts and hope you’ll spend time browsing our online collection or stopping by our Denver brick and mortar center to appreciate these objects in person.