The masterful script of this art piece was penned by the renowned Ottoman calligrapher Hafiz Osman who is the originator of the classical layout of the hilye.
At the top of the composition, is the Basmalah (In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the Boundlessly Merciful). Above the letter "sin" of the Basmalah in a very small script is:
إنه من سليمان وانه
This verse comes from the Quran [27:30] which reads: 'It is from Solomon, and it is in the Name of God, the All-Merciful the Meed-Giver of Mercy.
The central golden roundel takes the shape of a crescent moon and contains the physical description of the Seal of Prophets ﷺ as described by Imam Ali:
He was not too tall and attenuated, nor was he excessively short. He was medium sized. His hair was not short and curly, nor was it lank, but it was smooth and wavy. His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round, but there was a roundness to it. His skin was a ruddy white. His eyes were black. He had long eyelashes. He was big-boned and had wide shoulders. He had no body hair except in the middle of his chest. He had thick hands and feet. When he walked, he walked inclined, as if descending a slope. When he looked at someone, he looked at them in full face. Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy, the sign that he was the last of the prophets.
Surrounding the crescent are the names of the four first caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.
The wide band of green and gold floral decoration that surrounds the hilye was probably added about a century after Hafiz Osman wrote the text; this being an indication of the respect with which his work continued to be held with long after his death.
The life of master calligrapher Hafiz Osman
Hafiz Osman was born in 1642 to a father who was a muezzin at the Haseki mosque in Istanbul. Having mastered the recitation of the Quran at a young age, he acquired the epithet Hafiz. Hafiz Osman became an accomplished calligrapher who taught his craft to Sultan Ahmed II, Sultan Mustafa II, and Sultan Ahmed III. Tradition has it that he was held in such high esteem by Sultan Mustafa II, that the Sultan used to hold his inkwell as he watched his teacher write.
His expertise in mastering the naskh and thuluth script was achieved under his apprenticeship of Derviş Ali, and he received an ijaza (a license of authorization) through Suyoluzade Mustafa Eyyübi. Osman also admired the work of the 15th-century calligrapher, Seyh Hamdullah, and spent many hours replicating his works meticulously. Osman revived some of the six scripts that had fallen into disuse. These scripts underwent a process of purification and became known as "Hafiz Osman's style".
Osman was the first to create the hilye as a levha (a tablet to be hung on the wall) and to set its layout which has become the standard since the 1600s.
Despite his fame, Hafiz Osman lived the life of a simple dervish. Upon his death, he was buried in the graveyard of the Sufi lodge of Sunbul Effendi in Istanbul in 1698.
Details of the hilye
۩ Country of Origin: Ottoman Turkey
۩ Time Period: 1691
۩ Artist: Hafiz Osman
۩ Size: Approximately 46 x 34 cm (including frame)
۩ Print: High-quality matte print and detail finishings
۩ Frame: Wood frame with a gold finish
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