And they lived happily ever after

This series was inspired by Elena. She’s a stunningly sinuous belly dancer and a lovely friend. When she told me about Hürrem, her inspiration for this series, I have to admit to bouncing around with excitement. Her story had romance, intrigue, and a kick-ass heroine. As well as a chance to rope in Elena’s husband, weave in their own Ukrainian heritage – and all set in the lavish opulence of 16th century Ottoman Empire!

You might have noticed that I love stories that feature strong heroines. As I researched Roxelana/Aleksandra/Hürrem Sultan, I realised just what an extraordinary woman she must have been. She rose from a slave, to the most powerful woman in the empire. And yes, there were those rumours that she was a witch and had ensorcelled Suleiman. And some accounts have her behind her political rivals getting the chop (literally). But she was a strong, intelligent woman. She became Suleiman’s political advisor in state and international affairs. And she did a lot of good – one of the women’s hospitals she built still stands today in Istanbul.

I was looking back over this series for symbols and themes that keep popping up in my work, and the overarching theme here is to follow your heart. Hürrem didn’t let being wrenched from her homeland and sold as a slave stop her. She ended up in one of the greatest love stories in history! So that’s the story Elena and I wanted to tell with this series.

This is the final piece – eternal love.

“I’ll sing your praises always”

©2017, Ailene Cuthbertson, <i>“I'll sing your praises always”</i>. Photograph, 30 cm x 30 cm
©2017, Ailene Cuthbertson, “I'll sing your praises always”. Photograph, 30 cm x 30 cm

Our love story ends with Hürrem and Suleiman together for eternity.
They’re buried in adjacent mausoleums. Hers is covered with exquisite blue and white Iznik tiles depicting the garden of paradise.

In Hürrem and Suleiman’s time, tulips were highly prized flowers, symbolising heaven and eternal life. The tulip motif was widely used in imperial workshops. Red tulips are for “eternal love”.

Behind the scenes

Elena sent me some photos of her and Yevgen on their wedding day (oh my, what a fairytale wedding!) and this piece is inspired by one of those photos. I wish them all the best with their future. Part of the proceeds of the sale of these prints go to Elena so she can keep spreading her love of dance with the world.

©2017, Ailene Cuthbertson, <i>“I'll sing your praises always”</i>. Photograph, 30 cm x 30 cm
©2017, Ailene Cuthbertson, “I'll sing your praises always”. Photograph, 30 cm x 30 cm

If you’d like to bring some of the magic to your home, you can find out more about this print in my gallery (or of course you can email me ailene@oldmountainart.com).

And they all lived happily ever after. The end!