This essay explores how the re-encounter with a medieval history of manuscript illustration laid a foundation for the practice of modern art in Iraq. It focuses on the artist Jewad Selim (1919–61) and his discovery of Yahya al-Wasiti’s illustrations of the Maqāmāt al-Ḥarīrī, but it also marks the ways in which that discovery was mediated by the enterprise of orientalist scholarship, the context of European modernism, and the broader cultural renewal that occurred with the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the creation of new nation-states in the Middle East.
This paper focuses on an early seventeenth-century illustrated genealogy (Museum of Ethnography Ankara, No. 8457), which is stylistically attributable to Baghdad, and is iconographically and textually pro-Safavid at a point when Baghdad was under Ottoman rule. Taking the format of the illustrated genealogy, which was widespread in the Ottoman realm from the mid-sixteenth century onwards, the Ankara manuscript adapts the Ottoman genealogical tree tradition with a particularly Safavid tenor. In its immediate visual graspability and use of the genealogy as a methodological tool to claim legitimacy, this manuscript represents contested identities in the frontier province of Baghdad.
This article is a study of the family photo album of Elisabeth Leitner (ca. 1842?–1908), a Hungarian immigrant in the Ottoman empire. The album contains a complete set of cartes de visite portraits of the Ottoman sultans by the Abdullah Frères. As the only surviving example of such a collection with a known provenance, it provides a rare opportunity for understanding how such images were used in the context of identity formation and social mobility undertaken by a member of the immigrant population. The album, which has never been studied before, is also a fascinating source for investigating the history of Hungarian immigrants in the Ottoman empire who were displaced after the 1848 Revolution. The article approaches the intriguingly autobiographical album by means of a close reading of Elisabeth Leitner’s diaries and unfinished autobiography. My interpretation serves to dismantle notions of a carefree global cosmopolitanism and exposes a historiographical bias that privileges men and their collections of images and ethnographic artifacts over those of women. Elisabeth Leitner’s writings and photographic collection also represent a vast and entirely untapped resource for investigating cultural contacts between Europe and the Ottoman empire in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Begumpuri or Jamiʿ (Friday) Masjid of Jahanpanah (Delhi) is an impressive monument built during the Tughluq period, circa 1343. Although often credited to Firuz Shah (1351–88), the mosque was probably ordered by Muhammad Shah Tughluq (1325–51), since it was situated next to his royal palace in the heart of his capital (Jahanpanah). The Begumpuri Masjid represents a particular phase in the sequence of Tughluq architecture, both for its plan and elevation, and for its architectural decoration. It has often been described as a “Persianate” four-iwan mosque, although such a designation seems inappropriate. This article explores the probable patronage of the mosque by Muhammad Tughluq and its siting at the center of Jahanpanah. The plan and elevation of the mosque are detailed, with a discussion on the possible models for the building, together with its vernacular characteristics. We then present a study of the architectural decoration, made in stone, stucco, and turquoise glazed tiles. The peculiar features of the Begumpuri Masjid make it a unique monument celebrating the grandeur of Muhammad Tughluq through its huge and void court, as well as in its mulūk khāna (Royal Loggia).
In the Balkan region of Herzegovina is found a series of Ottoman-period mosques distinguished by minarets of an atypical form: unlike standard Ottoman designs with cylindrical or polygonal minaret shafts, the square plan of these minarets makes them more reminiscent of bell towers. Despite this salient and unusual feature, the “campanile minarets,” as some scholars choose to call them, remain little studied as a historical phenomenon; outside the former Yugoslavia, they are still practically unknown. The current article aims to establish the reasons for the popularity and dissemination of this curious architectural feature in a particular region and time. It discusses two hypotheses that link square-tower minarets morphologically to the Catholic Adriatic and Arab world, but ultimately offers a different interpretation of their formal origins and their establishment as a type.
The Risāla dar tafṣīl-i sākhtan-i chīnī (A Treatise on Porcelain Manufacture) is a Qajar-period manuscript in Persian, housed at the Sipahsalar Library in Tehran. It is the only known source that details the modern technology of porcelain production in the Qajar era (1789–1925). According to the information in the colophon, the scribe, Masih ibn Muhammad Baqir al-Firuzabadi, completed the manuscript in the year 1284 (1868). The text mentions that it is the translation of a French work, but no further reference to the original book is given. The purpose of this essay is to introduce and review the Persian manuscript, to reveal its relation to the three-volume Traité des arts céramiques ou des poteries (Treatise on Ceramic Arts or Potteries) by Alexandre Brongniart, a nineteenth-century scientist and director of the Sèvres Porcelain Factory, and to underline its importance to the history of art and technology in Qajar Iran.
The Shahi ʿIdgah at Rapri (Uttar Pradesh), which dates to 1312, was built by Malik Kafur, the general of the Delhi sultan ʿAlaʾuddin Khalji (1296–1316). The village of Rapri was part of Malik Kafur’s fief and an important station for the army, as it commanded a ford on the Yamuna River. ʿĪdgāhs, sometimes translated as “wall-mosques,” are extra-urban, open prayer spaces for accommodating large congregations during the two main religious festivals (ʿīds). The Rapri ʿīdgāh constitutes a major landmark in the architecture of the Delhi Sultanate, mainly because of its exceptional decoration of turquoise-glazed tiles, the oldest example of its kind still in situ. Although often considered a technique that originated in the Iranian domains, the making of glazed tiles was already known in the Kushan period (first to fourth century CE), and some findings have been excavated from Buddhist contexts in the nearby Mathura region. This study shows the link between the tiles of Rapri and later fourteenth century examples, and with glazed pottery.
The Kutubiyya Mosque, the hallmark monument of the Almohad dynasty (1121–1269) in their capital city of Marrakesh, has resisted scholarly interpretation due to its unique plan, featuring two prayer halls wedged apart by the monumental minaret. The south-facing qibla and the architectural use of a prior dynasty’s palatial remains further complicate the narrative surrounding the function of the mosque within the urban fabric and the Almohads’ dynastic self-concept. This article argues that such idiosyncrasies are indicative of the Almohads’ sensitivity to the intellectual, religious, and legal arguments of the day, expressed through a deliberate adaptation or repudiation of the architectural precedents in the Islamic West. The Kutubiyya must be understood as a monumental record of the dynastic shifts in ideology and identity as the Almohads struggled to define themselves against their predecessors and competitors. The site’s unique plan and complex construction history are the physical evidence of this struggle, which makes the role of the Kutubiyya in the urban history of Marrakesh all the more significant.