The new book by Dr Anna McSweeney – From Granada to Berlin: the Alhambra Cupola (Verlag Kettler, 2020) – tells the long history of the Alhambra palace through the prism of one of its most extraordinary survivors: the Alhambra cupola, a carved and painted 14th century ceiling which is now in the Museum for Islamic Art in Berlin.
Through a close examination of the cupola, it traces the long history of the Alhambra from medieval Granada to contemporary Berlin. It examines the methodology of object biography in relation to architectural fragments, while the loss of the cupola from Granada, its acquisition by the museum in Berlin and the complex reasons behind this loss remain central. Through a focused, chronological study with extensive new research on the object and the changing societies through which it moved, including many previously unpublished images, this book explores the material and cultural history of the cupola and offers a new perspective on the legacy of Islamic art in Europe and its continuing relevance today.
Muthanna, also known as mirror writing, is a compelling style of Islamic calligraphy composed of a source text and its mirror image placed symmetrically on a horizontal or vertical axis. This style elaborates on various scripts such as Kufic, naskh, and muhaqqaq through compositional arrangements, including doubling, superimposing, and stacking. Muthanna is found in diverse media, ranging from architecture, textiles, and tiles to paper, metalwork, and woodwork. Yet despite its centuries-old history and popularity in countries from Iran to Spain, scholarship on the form has remained limited and flawed. Muthanna / Mirror Writing in Islamic Calligraphy provides a comprehensive study of the text and its forms, beginning with an explanation of the visual principles and techniques used in its creation. Author Esra Akın-Kıvanç explores muthanna's relationship to similar forms of writing in Judaic and Christian contexts, as well as the specifically Islamic contexts within which symmetrically mirrored compositions reached full fruition, were assigned new meanings, and transformed into more complex visual forms. Throughout, Akın-Kıvanç imaginatively plays on the implicit relationship between subject and object in muthanna by examining the point of view of the artist, the viewer, and the work of art. In doing so, this study elaborates on the vital links between outward form and inner meaning in Islamic calligraphy.
“Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online” is an emerging platform of digital resources to aid the teaching of the history of Islamic art and architecture. In its initial stage, the platform provides original multimedia content developed by scholars from across the field of Islamic art, which is intended to aid educators in the creation of an interactive learning environment and to contribute to new ways of teaching in general, bringing new voices, perspectives, and materials into our classrooms. The project is spearheaded by Prof. Christiane Gruber at the University of Michigan and a team of six collaborators. Team Khamseen will make this material available to public audiences, with the aim to establish and expand a website with additional resources over the coming months. Currently available mini-multimedia files include the following presentations:
Khamseen is an ongoing project and more material will be included on a rolling basis. For any questions, or if you are interested in contributing a mini multi-media file, please contact Team Khamseen at TeamKhamseen@umich.edu
HIAA-sponsored discussion of online resources for the teaching of Islamic art on July 15th, 2020.
The discussion includes a synthesis of online resources by Christiane Gruber (University of Michigan), an exploration of museum online collections of Islamic art by Ruba Kana'an (University of Toronto, Mississauga), and an overview of Archnet by Michael Toler and Matt Saba (Archnet/MIT).
Islamic Manuscripts of Late Medieval Rum, 1270s-1370s: Production, Patronage and the Arts of the Book
Between the Mongol invasions in the mid-13th century and the rise of the Ottomans in the late 14th century, the Lands of Rūm were marked by instability and conflict. Despite this, a rich body of illuminated manuscripts from the period survives, explored here in this extensively illustrated volume. Meticulously analysing 15 beautifully decorated Arabic and Persian manuscripts, including Qur’ans, mirrors-for-princes, historical chronicles and Sufi works, Cailah Jackson traces the development of calligraphy and illumination in late medieval Anatolia. She shows that the central Anatolian city of Konya, in particular, was a dynamic centre of artistic activity and that local Turcoman princes, Seljuk bureaucrats and Mevlevi dervishes all played important roles in manuscript production and patronage
The Manar al-Athar photo-archive, based at the University of Oxford, provides high resolution, searchable images for teaching, research, publication and heritage work. These images of archaeological sites, buildings and artworks, cover the areas of the former Roman Empire which later came under Islamic rule (such as Syro-Palestine/the Levant, Egypt and North Africa), and adjoining regions, such as Armenia and Georgia. The chronological range is from Alexander the Great (i.e from about 300 BC) through the Islamic period.
The photo-archive is open-access so that it can be freely used by anyone anywhere in the world. Photographs can be freely downloaded as original high-resolution images (tif images) without watermarks, making them immediately available in a format suitable for publication or research, simply by acknowledging the source. Material is labelled in both English and Arabic to facilitate regional use, with the main instructions also available in some other languages.
The Manar al-Athar photo-archive currently has c. 70 000 images online, but is in continuous development. Current strengths include Late Antiquity (AD 250–750), the period of transition from paganism to Christianity and, in turn, to Islam, especially religious buildings (temples, churches, synagogues, mosques) and monumental art (including floor mosaics), early Islamic art (paintings, mosaics, relief sculpture), as well as Roman and early Islamic (Umayyad) architecture, and iconoclasm
"From Ordinary to Luxury” is based on the glazed and unglazed pottery from The Bumiller Collection and is a profound study of Iranian and Central Asian ceramics. The Bumiller set is not a collection of masterpieces, but gives an insight into the most diverse wares of daily life. Pierre Siméon’s expertise and hands-on experience as an archaeologist are invaluable assets for the knowledge of provenance and distribution of Iranian and Central Asian pottery. Apart from that, his study takes into account the works of our Russian colleagues, that have gone without adequate acknowledgement for decades due to the language barrier.
Like the sea, and the watery medium with which rock crystal is identified in the Middle Ages, the history of its production during the Middle Ages ebbs and flows. From Late Antiquity to the age of the great Portuguese expansion, specific knowledge about carving the hard material was kept a closely guarded secret in just a few centers of production. All the while, royal courts and wealthy churches were eager patrons for the luxurious objects given that rock crystal was valued as one of the most desirable and precious of all materials, ascribed mysterious origins and powers, and renowned for both rarity and clarity. This collection of essays reveals the global and cross-cultural histories of rock-crystal production in and even beyond the lands of the Mediterranean Sea. It investigates many objects and varied aspects of rock crystal such as: the physical nature and legendary as well as actual origins of the material; its manufacturing techniques and affiliations to other luxurious objects, such as cut glass and carved precious stones; legends and traditions associated with its aesthetic qualities; as well as issues concerning its varied functions and historiography.
With contributions by: Zainab Bahrani, Isabelle Bardiès, Farid Benfeghoul, Brigitte Buettner, Patrick R. Cowley, Beate Fricke, Marisa Galvez, Stefania Gerevini, Cynthia Hahn, Jeremy Johns, Genevra Kornbluth, Jens Kröger, Ingeborg Krueger, Elise Morero, Bissera V. Penchera, Marcus Pilz, Stèphane Pradines, Venetia Porter, Hara Procopiou, Avinoam Shalem, Gia Toussaint, Roberto Vargiolu, and Hassan Zahouani.
Last fall, Barry Flood was the 2019 Chaire du Louvre, an annual cycle of five lectures. The lectures are in French and the cycle is entitled Technologies de dévotion dans les arts de l’Islam. Pélerins, reliques, copies. The five lectures are now online.
Ottoman History Podcast--For the first time on the podcast, we discuss the role of archaeology and its potential to contribute to our knowledge of the Ottoman world. More specifically, we explore how the field of landscape archaeology can offer a better understanding of how different factors of religion, politics, and culture impacted the manipulation of territory over millenia. The large-scale examination of material culture and vernacular architecture in a rural setting particularly has the potential to fill in the gaps of the historical archive, providing information about communities that otherwise remain relatively unknown. In this episode, we speak with Renata Holod, who co-directed a multi-year archaeological and architectural survey of the island of Jerba, off the coast of Tunisia. Our conversation not only explains the techniques and methodologies deployed during the project, but also ranges to wider reflections on the different ways the arrival of the Ottomans on the island can be read in the landscape itself.
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