A storm of warm emotions: Suleiman and Hürrem fall in love

We had a lot of fun getting the photos for this artwork...
We had a lot of fun getting the photos for this artwork…

But first, a bit of history

Before I continue Hürrem’s story, imagine yourself in the 16th century and you live in a palace in the middle of the Ottoman Empire. What do think of when you hear the word “harem”?

Scantily, coin-belt clad concubines and slave girls wafting through the palace, guarded by zealous eunuchs, waiting to be noticed by the sultan?

That’s the picture I had in my head (ta for that Hollywood). And it turns out that yes, the harem did house the sultan’s consorts, and the only men allowed were eunuchs. But a harem was simply the women’s quarters in the palace: from the sultan’s mother (the “Valide Sultan” and ruler of the harem), sisters, consorts, and servants. Yes, some of the consorts and servants were slaves but a lot of girls were there because life in the harem offered an education, and more security and freedom than they could find elsewhere.

You can image what fun it would have been keeping peace among all those women vying for status, power, and their future security. Therefore, centuries of tradition governed the harem.

Back to Hürrem’s story…

If you missed the beginning, you can read it here. Otherwise, read on!

Suleiman broke centuries of tradition for Hürrem.

Harem rules dictated that concubines could only bear the sultan one son – to prevent feuds and rivalries among the sons as well as the mothers. Hürrem bore Suleiman 5 sons and a daughter.

Hürrem was born the daughter of an Orthodox Christian priest. She asked Suleiman to instruct her in the Muslim faith, and then converted to Islam for him.

©2017, Ailene Cuthbertson, <i>My wealth, my love, my moonlight</i>. Photograph, 30 cm x 30 cm
©2017, Ailene Cuthbertson, My wealth, my love, my moonlight. Photograph, 30 cm x 30 cm

Behind the scenes

As much as I love this photo of Elena and Yevgen, those columns are not helping!
As much as I love this photo of Elena and Yevgen, those columns are not helping!

Elena and Yevgen (Jack) were so patient with me getting these photos. Not only did I end up fighting tall columns and trees sticking out of heads, the laws of physics stopped me from moving back further than the wall behind me. And the Renaissance garden was overflowing with people and we were all standing right in the way! But, we got there, with the help of a kind gentleman who swished Lena’s veil for us.

This piece is set in summer moonlight. Summer is for the ripening of Hürrem and Suleiman’s love. The candles in the scene represent their children, and her gold dress reflects the “my wealth” in the title. And I love how Elena puts it:

It seems like it shows the storm of warm emotions people feel when they fell in love and it truly conveys the feelings Hürrem and Suleiman felt to each other.


Next time

We’re up to Hürrem’s mischievous eyes and I get to show you (and Elena) just how gorgeous she is.

Keep on shining bright,