The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Seljuk Decorative Arts

The Seljuks were masters at stone cutting and carving, which became the principal decorative element of their architecture. However, they also excelled in other decorative arts, notably ceramics and textiles.


The Seljuks developed a flourishing program of decorative arts, forging their own distinctive style. However, Seljuk decorative arts must be considered as both a result of, as well as a contribution to, the universal decorative lexicon of the Middle Ages in the Near East and the Islamic world. The Seljuks of Anatolia continued the design traditions of their predecessors, the Great Seljuks of Iran. These small-scale objects, easily carried, were traded over great distances. This trade encouraged the spread of decorative fashions and styles.  It is certain that this trade and the resulting exchange of decorative trends was facilitated by the network of Seljuk hans, which, in essence, linked China to Konya. These objects became a universal exchange medium in the globalized economic and cultural sphere of the Near East.


The Seljuk realm also experienced an influx of many "foreign" artists, fleeing the upheaval in the east caused by the advancing Mongols. Many artists settled in Anatolian cities, bringing their artistic traditions, talents and flavors to the already complex and culturally-varied decorative vocabulary in place at the time. In addition, foreign artists and objects were often taken as war booty, thus bringing additional design vocabulary to the Seljuk mix.


The Seljuk ruling and upper classes also developed a lifestyle taste for objects made in other surrounding areas: Damascus steel, Iraqi glass, and Byzantine velvets were some of the most sought-after objects. These wares most certainly inspired local artists at Konya and elsewhere in the Seljuk realm to attempt their replication.


Lavish decorative art objects were often given as tribute gifts by the Seljuks Sultans and viziers to the courts of their adversaries, notably the Mongols.





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