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.
Volume I: Essays / Volume II: Transliteration and Facsimile "Register of Books" (Kitāb al-kutub), MS Török F. 59; Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára Keleti Gyűjtemény (Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
The subject of this two-volume publication is an inventory of manuscripts in the book treasury of the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, commissioned by the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II from his royal librarian ʿAtufi in the year 908 (1502–3) and transcribed in a clean copy in 909 (1503–4). This unicum inventory preserved in the Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára Keleti Gyűjtemény, MS Török F. 59) records over 5,000 volumes, and more than 7,000 titles, on virtually every branch of human erudition at the time. The Ottoman palace library housed an unmatched encyclopedic collection of learning and literature; hence, the publication of this unique inventory opens a larger conversation about Ottoman and Islamic intellectual/cultural history. The very creation of such a systematically ordered inventory of books raises broad questions about knowledge production and practices of collecting, readership, librarianship, and the arts of the book at the dawn of the sixteenth century.
The first volume contains twenty-eight interpretative essays on this fascinating document, authored by a team of scholars from diverse disciplines, including Islamic and Ottoman history, history of science, arts of the book and codicology, agriculture, medicine, astrology, astronomy, occultism, mathematics, philosophy, theology, law, mysticism, political thought, ethics, literature (Arabic, Persian, Turkish/Turkic), philology, and epistolary. Following the first three essays by the editors on implications of the library inventory as a whole, the other essays focus on particular fields of knowledge under which books are catalogued in MS Török F. 59, each accompanied by annotated lists of entries. The second volume presents a transliteration of the Arabic manuscript, which also features an Ottoman Turkish preface on method, together with a reduced-scale facsimile.
Nira Stone (1938-2013) was a scholar of Armenian and Byzantine Art. Her broad and close acquaintance with the field of Armenian art history covered many fields of Armenian artistic creativity. Nira Stone made notable contributions to the study of Armenian manuscript painting, mosaics, and other forms of artistic expression. Of particular interests are her researches on this art in its historical and religious contexts, such as the study of apocryphal elements in Armenian Gospel iconography, the place of the mosaics of Jerusalem in the context of mosaics in Byzantine Palestine, and of the interplay between religious movements, such as hesychasm, and Armenian manuscript painting.