Thuluth (Arabic: ثُلُث, Persian: ثلث sols, Turkish: Sülüs, from thuluth “one-third”) is a script variety of Islamic calligraphy invented by Ibn Muqlah Shirazi. The straight angular forms of Kufic were replaced in the new script by curved and oblique lines. In Thuluth, one-third of each letter slopes, from which the name (meaning “a third” in Arabic) comes. An alternative theory to the meaning is that the smallest width of the letter is one third of the widest part. It is an elegant, cursive script, used in medieval times on mosque decorations. Various calligraphic styles evolved from Thuluth through slight changes of form.
The greatest contributions to the evolution of the Thuluth script occurred in the Ottoman Empire in three successive steps that Ottoman art historians call “calligraphical revolutions”:
- The first revolution occurred in the 15th century and was initiated by the master calligrapher Sheikh Hamdullah.
- The second revolution resulted from the work of the Ottoman calligrapher Hâfız Osman in the 17th century.
- Finally, in the late 19th century, Mehmed Şevkî Efendi gave the script the distinctive shape it has today.
The best known artist to write the Thuluth script at its zenith is said to be Mustafa Râkım Efendi (1757–1826), a painter who set a standard in Ottoman calligraphy which many believe has not been surpassed to this day.
An important aspect of Thuluth script is the use of harakat (“hareke” in Turkish) to represent vowel sounds and of certain other stylistic marks to beautify the script. The rules governing the former are similar to the rules for any Arabic script. The stylistic marks have their own rules regarding placement and grouping which allow for great creativity as to shape and orientation. For example, one grouping technique is to separate the marks written below letters from those written above.
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