Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: The Ottoman Renaissance, 1413-1575

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

Join us for a fascinating exploration of the artistic and cultural traditions of the Ottoman Renaissance. The course primarily focuses on the development of Ottoman mosque and monumental tomb architecture, and also includes other decorative arts including Iznik ceramics, calligraphy, and the arts of the book. We will also engage in several contemporary discussions of architecture and its intersection with both state ideology and cultural identity.

This course covers the entire period from the early 15th century in 1413 to the end of the 16th century (1575), thereby presenting a uniquely comprehensive narrative of the Ottoman Renaissance. The course is directly comparable to its contemporary European equivalent, despite the fact that its primary cultural reference points are the Timurid and Islamicate, rather than the Greco-Roman past.


This course aims to provide you with a unique understanding and insight into Ottoman Renaissance, and its analogous evolution to the European Renaissance.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • recognise the revisionist and global perspectives of the term 'Renaissance'
  • analyse and discuss the major artistic works of the early modern Ottoman Empire using primary and secondary sources
  • discuss cultural, artistic and political systems of the early modern Ottoman Empire and cross-cultural interactions with both the Islamic East and Latin West
  • critically analyse the art historical symbolisms of the early modern Ottoman aesthetic.


Introduction: The Renaissance paradigm

This session focuses on defining the ‘Renaissance’ from traditionalist pan-European and Ottoman perspectives. A number of sources will be discussed from both Western and Turkish historians to help define what we mean by the term ‘Renaissance’.

The links to the past

This session focuses on the Timurid-Persian-Turkic-Islamic and Roman/Byzantine influences on Ottoman art and architecture in the 15th century.

This will cover the Ottomans' reliance on their inherited Islamic and Greco-Roman past to stage their ‘Renaissance’. The patronages of Sultan Mehmed I (d.1421) and Sultan Mehmed II (d.1481) are closely studied.

Surpassing the past: Ottoman architecture

We will discuss Ottoman monumental architecture by Mimar Sinan, (Ottoman imperial architect, d.1588) the Süleymaniye, (1557) and Selimiye Mosques (1575). We will consider how the Byzantine/Roman Hagia Sophia inspired Sinan’s work. Sinan demonstrates through his autobiographies that he excelled and surpassed the past, like his counterparts in Renaissance Italy, by creating structures that embody distinctive Ottoman Renaissance features and aesthetics.

Word of God, art of Man

This lecture focuses on the art of 16th century Iznik ceramic tiles that were used in mosques, palaces and tombs. Specifically, we will discuss the Rustem Pasha Mosque, designed by Sinan – its interior is covered with glistening tiles. In this session you will have an opportunity to see imitation 16th century Iznik tiles when learning about the symbolism of the floral motifs.

Illustrated histories and the self-fashioning of a Renaissance Sultan

This week we will explore the miniature paintings from the Süleymanname (The Illustrated history of Süleyman the Magnificent). Through close analysis of selected paintings, you will gain an understanding of how the sultan used propaganda to bolster his image in the Islamic East and Latin West. To do this, he relied on using the 11th century Persian exemplar – Firdausi’s Shahname (Book of Kings) highlighting the sultan’s connections to the mythical past and exemplifying his heroic deeds.

Legacy of Ottoman Renaissance material culture

This session focuses on the Ottoman Renaissance legacy and its influence on the material culture of the neighbouring regions of the Ottoman Empire. We will also discuss how early modern Ottoman art reflected the greatness of the Empire’s rulers and the magnificence of the sultans' court.

Ottoman material culture was positively received in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe, from Moscow, Warsaw, Budapest, and Venice to London. The evidence used to support this comes from the many Ottoman objects, both original and imitative, which found their way into the courts and palaces of the time. These objects include ceremonial helmets, maces, armour, carpets and much more. These objects celebrate the global nature of the Renaissance. They are a product of a vibrant culture and demonstrate that its creative, aesthetic, and stylistic progress influenced the arts well beyond its borders.

Intended audience

  • Undergraduate and post-graduate students of history will greatly benefit from this revisionist perspective of the course.
  • Research students of Islamic history at USYD Department of Art History coordinated by Professor Mary Roberts.
  • Anyone interested in non-Western history with a revisionist, inclusive and global approach.

Delivery style

  • Lecture with audio-visual presentation
  • Discussion with interactive Q&A
  • Analysing written and visual sources
  • Researching materials and images of art works when required


Please bring a notebook, pen and laptop/tablet for the research tasks and note taking.

Recommended reading

Inalcik, Halil, 2001, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600, Orion Publishing Co, London.

MacClean, Gerald, ed., 2005, Re-Orienting the Renaissance: Cultural Exchanges With the East, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Shaw, Stanford J, 2002, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey: Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire 1280-1808 Volume 1, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Free, expert advice
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

History Course: The Ottoman Renaissance, 1413-1575

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - History”}</p><p>Join us for a fascinating exploration of the artistic and cultural traditions of the Ottoman Renaissance. The course primarily focuses on the