This article examines some of the more significant aspects of Turin Safīna manuscript Biblioteca Reale Ms. Or. 101. One of these is its unique and important six-page preface, which refers to the manuscript as a safīna (ship or vessel) and explains in poetic language why some Persian manuscripts are referred to using this term. In addition to this significant preface, which is translated and analyzed in the first half of the article, the manuscript also exhibits delicate illuminations and calligraphy work that may be connected to a network of artist-families active in western Persia (primarily in the region of Shiraz) around the time of its completion. The second half of this article revisits the careers of some of these artists, and discusses the broader artistic context for the creation of the Turin safīna manuscript. Special attention will be given to the careers of the illuminator known as Ruzbehanal-Modhahheb, and his calligrapher father Naʿim al-Din al-Kateb.
The Eşrefoğlu Mosque in Iznik was destroyed during the Turkish War of Independence, not long after Cornelius Gurlitt published a black and white photograph of its facade taken by G. Berggren. The photograph constitutes the only remaining visual evidence of a building whose initial construction likely dates to the lifetime of the shaykh whose memory it preserved. The flamboyant facade shown in the photograph reveals a unique mass of calligraphy, including inscriptions, published many years ago but revisited here. These inscriptions add to our understanding of the mosque’s history. My own telling of the phases of the building’s construction involves a reexamination of the identity of the mosque’s Ottoman dynastic patrons, principally Gülbahar Hatun, mother of Sultan Bayezid II. The inscriptions also raise questions about the shaykh’s spiritual legacy. Finally, the mosque’s spatial relationship to a nearby dervish lodge and to türbes associated with the shaykh and his family, buildings that also no longer survive, can be newly addressed.
The lid of a small wooden box, believed to have contained the heart of Abbot Roger de Norton (d. 1291), was discovered in 1872, during the restoration of St. Albans Abbey. The lid has an Arabic inscription that has not previously been translated. It is now suggested that the inscription reads al-ʿizz al-dāʾim wa ’l-iqbāl lahu, or “Everlasting glory and good fortune for him.”
In 2014 the Ashmolean Museum conserved and examined one of the largest and most handsome ceramic vessels in its renowned Islamic art collection. An accomplished example of early thirteenth-century Persian lusterware from the bequest of Sir Alan Barlow, the salver had an unusually deformed profile and uneven wear that pointed at a number of past interventions. Some of these had already been uncovered in 2008 when the object was prepared for reinstallation in the revamped Ashmolean. However, it was only when analyzed by a team of inhouse specialists and scientists from Cranfield University and the Research Laboratory for Archaeology at the University of Oxford, that the extraordinary nature of its “restoration” could be assessed. This article presents the results of this collaborative effort and contributes important evidence to the thorny issue of the faking and forging of Islamic ceramics in the early twentiethc century, when collecting Islamic decorative arts was at its peak.
This article traces the history of an Ottoman legal custom related to the construction of sultanic (imperial) mosques. According to conventional narratives, the victory over non-Muslims was the essential requisite for constructing a sultanic mosque. Only after having emerged victorious should a sultan use the funds resulting from holy war to build his own mosque. This article argues that this custom emerged only after the late sixteenth century in tandem with rising complaints about the Ottoman decline and with the ḳānūn-consciousness of the Ottoman elite, although historical accounts present it as if it existed from the beginning of Ottoman rule. It rapidly gained importance, so much so that the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was dubbed “the unbeliever’s mosque” by contemporary ulema. After having examined details of the custom’s canonization, the article deals with how it left its imprint in construction activities (struggles and workarounds), historical sources, literature, and cultural memory, up to the nineteenth century.
In the collection of Vatopediou Monastery (Mount Athos) there is a Late Byzantine vestment called by the monks the “Arabic stole” (arabikon ōmophorion). This quite unique vestment probably owes its name to two bands of embroidered Arabic inscriptions on the lower part of each end. It is one of the very few known Byzantine religious objects to feature legible Arabic inscriptions, a visible symbol of Islamic otherness juxtaposed with the standard Christian iconography. Apart from bringing into the spotlight a medieval vestment that has been overlooked by scholars, this article traces possible sources of artistic transfer through a discussion of texts and extant objects. Finally, it aims at expanding our understanding of the reception of Islamic art in Late Byzantium, a time of both political decline and cultural renewal.
This article presents an overview of the current state of knowledge regarding the material culture of north India under the Delhi sultans and the regional sultanates that emerged in Bengal, Gujarat, Jaunpur, and Malwa during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Highlighting lacunae in existing scholarship, it also draws attention to material and textual sources that underline the strong transregional filiations of Sultanate art and architecture. It suggests that negotiations between regional artistic forms and styles and those that reflect transregional connections in Sultanate art and architecture anticipate a feature often seen as characteristic of early Mughal art and architecture.
In the second quarter of the fifteenth century, a new phenomenon appears in Ottoman architecture: tiles with blue-and-white decoration, associated with tile-makers from Tabriz. These tiles appear most prominently in the Muradiye in Edirne, completed in 839/1435-36. They mark the beginning of an aesthetic shift, away from black-line (or cuerda seca) tiles inspired by Timurid and Aqquyunlu models, toward the blue-and-white tiles and vessels of the so-called Baba Naqqaş style of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The mihrāb of the Muradiye features both kinds of tiles, thus illustrating this shift at its early stages. Within the parameters of an international Timurid style, the artistic production of this period (tile-work in particular) has been considered an offshoot of Timurid court patronage in eastern Iran and Central Asia. In the larger context of the fifteenth-century Islamic world, however, related tiles and vessels were also produced in Damascus and Cairo. This article examines the tiles of the Muradiye Mosque within the framework of artistic centers, the movements of motifs, objects, and makers, and their impact on architecture in the fifteenth-century Ottoman empire.
The arts of the book of late medieval Rum (Anatolia) constitute a rich resource for Islamic art historians that remains relatively unknown in the wider scholarship. This complex period saw the disintegration of Seljuk rule and the partial absorption of the region into the Ilkhanid realm. Konya (present-day central Turkey), the former Seljuk capital, was hardly isolated from its better-known neighbors and was evidently an active center for the patronage of the arts of the book. This article contributes to ongoing discussions concerning late medieval Islamic manuscripts by discussing illuminations that were produced by Mukhlis ibn ʿAbdallah al-Hindi in thirteenth-century Konya. One of the two named illuminators active in the city, Mukhlis extensively decorated two manuscripts, both in 677h (1278): a small Qurʾan and a monumental copy of Jalal al-Din Rumi’s Mas̱navī. Both are the initial focus of the article. Following an analysis of these manuscripts, the article presents additional material as possible products of Mukhlis’s hand or of Konya generally, demonstrating both the relative visual distinctiveness of Konya illumination and the need to potentially re-examine works previously attributed to Egypt or Persia.
In 1614 Caʿfer Efendi devoted four chapters of his book on architecture to the science of surveying. Caʿfer’s text is the only extant comprehensive book written by a scholar on the relation between architecture and various forms of knowledge. His sections on surveying have attracted little scholarly attention since they were often viewed as ad hoc chapters in a biography of the chief architect Mehmed Agha. An investigation into the intersection between architecture, as represented by the architect’s cubit, the science of surveying, and jurisprudence sheds significant light on how scholars assessed the legitimacy of early modern Ottoman architecture. In this article, I examine the relationship between architectural practices, mathematical knowledge, and social practices by focusing on Caʿfer Efendi’s elaborations on the architect’s cubit, units of measure, and mensuration of areas. These links need to be understood through the cultural and scientific context in which architects and scholars collaborated. I also explore Caʿfer Efendi’s identity, which gave him the tools to discuss such intrinsic connections. When read along with court decrees, and in conjunction with the use of mathematical sciences for civic affairs, this investigation reveals how Ottoman architecture was embedded in the scientific discourses, social practices, and ethical concerns of the early seventeenth century.