Magreb Arts and Ottoman Influence

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The geographical region, Western North Africa, suggests the area of Maghreb, including today’s Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. After the mid-16th century, Maghreb, east of Morocco, was loosely under the control of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman rules centered on the cities of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Though several dynasties were founded, including the semi-independent Muradids(1612-1702) and Husaynids(1705-1881) in Tunisia, and Qaramanlis(1711-1835) in Libya, the Empire maintained its strong influence for the next two hundred years in Maghreb until the European forces’ intervention in the 19th century. Through the artworks, it is obvious that the political and social influence of Ottoman Empire changed the art culture of Maghreb in a large scale.

The Ottoman Empire reached its peak at 1590 and Ottoman influence and style affected all the land it conquered. The predominant religion in the Empire was Islam whereas Christians were treated as second-class citizens. Islamic art was shown in many different aspects. Mosques were the most notable religious architecture. Islamic art strongly discouraged the rendering of human figure in art and many of the designs combined geometric and vegetal elements, for instance, the arabesque. Besides, with Constantinople(Istanbul) as its capital and vast control of lands around the Mediterranean basin, the empire centered the interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for over six centuries. The wide ethnic range of the Empire resulted in a new decoration style--the lively saz style--which borrowed heavily from Eastern motifs. The most popular style, however, was the naturalistic style which depicted realistic garden flora. This style became the preferred Ottoman decorative theme for ceramics, textiles, and even architectural embellishment.

At the same time, in Ottoman Maghreb, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli were the three political and industry centers and main ports in North Africa. Europeans traded...
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