The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque: “An Auspicious Event On An Auspicious Site”

  • Abstract:

    The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque was inaugurated in 1871 by the mother of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876). It was the last example of the long Ottoman tradition of royal mosque complexes, but neither twentieth-century urban developers nor historians of Ottoman art have had much regard for this monument, likely because the decoration and tectonic structure of the mosque reflect a vast span of Ottoman, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance styles. The amalgamation of these styles was often condemned in the old paradigm of Ottoman architectural history as a garish hodgepodge lacking the grandeur of classical Ottoman architecture. This paper will examine why and how such preferences emerged and establish what Michael Baxandall has called the “period eye.” Furthermore, I will investigate a point that Ottoman art historians who have explained the choice of style have omitted: nowhere do they mention the importance of the site for the valide sultan and the imperial family. My paper will thus contextualize the complex within the larger nineteenth-century urban fabric and the socio-political circumstances to elucidate better its function and significance. Overall I argue that the rich hybridity of the building together with the choice of its location was intended to testify to the powerful dynastic presence during particularly tumultuous years of the empire, while also projecting the aspirations of a strong female figure of the Ottoman dynasty.