Levni's pictorial narrative of the Surname-i Vehbi, poet Vehbi's account of a festival organised in 1720 to commemorate the circumcision of four sons of Sultan Ahmed III, is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of Ottoman art and possibly the last great example of illustrated Islamic manuscript. Preserved in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, the work is illustrated with 137 paintings that recreate the personages, settings, and events of an extraordinarily lively and enchanting age known as the Tulip Period. Printed in colour with gold and silver, "Levni and the Surname" is a sumptuous facsimile edition that reproduces each illustration in the format of the original manuscript: an Islamic codex which reads from back to front, or right to left. The book also introduces the historical and cultural setting of the age, analyses the tradition of festivals and festival books within the Ottoman world, discusses the artist's methodology in representing the festival of 1720, and concludes with a listing of the historic groups and individuals participating in the event. Esin Atil has recently retired as curator of Islamic art at the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, and is the author of more than 20 books.
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