Name of Object:

Tughra (imperial monogram)


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum


About hegira 956 / AD 1550

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gouache and ink on paper.


Height 44.5 cm, width 57 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


Written in pen and illuminated in gouache, this is the tughra (imperial monogram) of Suleyman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–73 / AD 1520–66). Tughras were used on documents, or firmans (commands) which were issued by the Diwan (Council of State). This example bears the Sultan’s name, Suleyman Shah, and that of his father, Selim, and the phrase ‘the one who is always victorious’. Within the widest loop, formed by the Han (Title), is an intricate illuminated design. Painted in black and gold are fine floral spirals set against a ground of minute cloud-scrolls. The inner loop is filled with split-palmette scrolls and florets. Further floral- and cloud-scrolls fill the space between the ascending parts of the letters. The spiral design is also found on underglaze painted ceramics. The practice of illuminating the tughra was established by the ruler Bayazid II (d. AH 917/ AD 1512), under Suleyman they became ever more elaborate. The subject of the document to which this tughra was attached is not known.

View Short Description

Original Owner:

Süleyman the Magnificent

How date and origin were established:

This is the tughra of Suleyman the Magnificent (r. 926–73 / 1520–66). Due to the type of illumination employed this particular example probably dates to about 956 / 1550.

How Object was obtained:

Donated by E. Beghian in 1949.

How provenance was established:

The tughra would have been inscribed and illuminated at the imperial court of Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul, Turkey.

Selected bibliography:

Porter, V., Mightier than the Sword – Arabic Script: Beauty and Meaning, Malaysia, exhibition catalogue, 2004, pp.190–1, cat. no. 92.

Rogers, J. M., Islamic Art and Design 1500–1700, London, 1993, pp.45–6, cat. no. 32.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Tughra (imperial monogram)" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;uk;Mus01;50;en&id=prints_and_drawings

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 69