Surname-i Vehbi

A miniature-illustrated account
of an 18th century festival in Ottoman Istanbul

The original of this work, which is in the library of the Topkapı Sarayı museum in İstanbul, contains 137 brilliantly-colored miniatures by Levni, the renowned court painter to the court of Ahmed III (r 1703-1740). The miniatures illustrate a fifteen-day festival held on the occasion of the circumcision of four of the sultan's sons in 1720. Surname-i Vehbi is in the long-standing Ottoman tradition of preparing specially-written and illustrated books to commemorate the festivities that took place on special occasions such as royal births, weddings, and so on. The activities included parades, musical performances, circus acts, and fireworks displays, all of which were brilliantly captured and executed by Levni in his miniatures. With one exception, the miniatures occupy double pages. The text for the book was composed by Vehbi, a court poet.

Note: This site is currently under construction. When completed, it will contain all the Levni images in jpg format together with explanations and comments.

English translations and comments copyright © Robert Bragner 2000.

The miniatures of Surname-i Vehbi (Doğan Kuban)
The Imperial Procession: Recreating a world’s order (Stephane Yerasimos)
Levni's images: Explanatory notes and comments (Mertol Tulum & Robert Bragner)

(Click here for a quick guide to Turkish characters and pronunciation)


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