Today, foreign visitors come to Istanbul armed with their smartphone and leave loaded down with memories. Travelers of the seventeenth century, however, had no such luxuries to remind them of this exotic city with its rich costumes and strange customs when they returned home. Instead, they turned to the market (çarşı) painter, who would compile an album of miniature paintings along the visitor’s desired theme.

In these çarşı paintings, in the stunning air of motionlessness, the artist records the costumes, customs, and scenes from everyday life, in a manner that can be instantly understood. With their spontaneity, candidness and directness, they stand removed from the intellectual statements of the professional court artists. That is, the çarşı artist started with the elimination of everything superfluous. The scene is depicted with the greatest economy and without overcrowding, and the result is a mixture of childlike spontaneity and instinctive pictorial sense. Sometimes it packs more correct visual information into the image than a photograph ever could.

courts painting

The court artist’s method is just the opposite. Starting with the basic schema all that can be possibly added is included, filling the frame with ornate carpets, tiles and calligraphic architecture. The artlessness of the çarşı artist contrasts highly with the detail, sophistication and high aesthetic aim of the court artist.

The court painters worked in groups according to a highly elaborate division of tasks. Through their patron, every kind of expensive material was available to them. This was an advantage not open to the çarşı artist, and as he had, at most, the help of an apprentice or a few neighbors, he could not organize an army of apprentices such as the court artist had at his beck and call. The rich palette of the court paintings required a wealthy patron, and no less expensive was the paper which was so carefully prepared and polished. Extreme care in execution on such brilliant and costly material naturally produced exquisite effects and fine detail.

The çarşı paintings are a far cry from these works in style, content, material and technique, and in the choice of simplified lines and the rejection of all accessory elements. Similarly, colors and volumes are simplified so that shading is eliminated. Also, exaggeration is used for emphasis or to aid expression. This gives rise to deformation, for example, the main person is larger than others.

çarşı painting

In a few words, a çarşı painting:

  • Disregards anatomy and perspective
  • Turns towards a more intimate and simplified world of form and line
  • Uses simplified colors and eliminates shading.
  • Has a dynamic sense of composition, is untroubled and spontaneous.
  • Has its proportions altered by the artist to bring things into his own scale.
  • Reveals an urge for simplification.
  • Is painted by artists with a gift for precise observation.
  • Rejects all accessory elements.
  • Exaggerates for expressive purposes, leading to deformation. For example, soldiers are often proportionately larger than the castle and ships.
  • Has significant coloring, and prefers blue, red, dark green and brown. The coloring is rather crude and the palette limited.

In time çarşı art became more popular than court painting because it was more easily accessible.

The new packaging for Selamlique sweets was inspired by the work carried out on market painters by the art historian Tarkan Okçuoğlu specialist in naive art. The figures were portrayed by miniature artist Taner Alakuş, who has collaborated with Selamlique for many years. These works take up typical characters of the painters of the çarşı, with a special touch from the Selamlique designer's team.