The village mosques of Denizli appear to be modest affairs. But inside, freely painted from mihrab to minbar, from column to cupola, they explode into colour, as the striking cover of the latest issue of Cornucopia, by Tarkan Kultu, shows. A new book about the province, with photographs by Ali Konyalı and Takran Kutlu, reveals the mosques – and their Sufi symbols – in all their splendour. The art historian Serpil Bağcı is entranced
Decoration of Monumental Ottoman mosques is traditionally distinguished by amazing but sparing interior tilework that underscores the structural qualities of the architecture (tiles may include Koranic inscriptions or flower and tree designs that echo the gardens outside), or by paintings on plaster in the upper parts of the interior.
Paintings in secular architecture incorporate much richer visual content. Surviving private houses and palaces mostly date from the late 18th and 19th centuries, but paintings of interiors in manuscripts attest to the continuous presense of wall paintings from at least the 15th century. The aesthetics of mosques and palaces built by the imperial family or members of the ruling class spread to the farthest reaches of the Empire.
Modest mosques and houses surviving from the 18th and 19th centuries were adorned with landscapes that included imaginary buildings, views of cities (mostly Istanbul) and still lifes… Simple on the outside, some wooden village mosques had an added portico reminiscent of galleries opening onto the courtyards of private houses in the region. Inside, pillared halls and colourful painting on the wooden structure and on the walls make for a warm, joyful space.
The photographs in this article, by Ali Konyalı, published courtesy of Yapı Kredi Yayınları, are from ‘Denizli: Tanrıların Kutsadığı Vadi’ (Denizli: The Valley Blessed by Gods), ed. Filiz Özdemş, available in Turkish only.
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