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Abbasid  

Robert Hillenbrand

Islamic dynasty that ruled from several capitals in Iraq between ad 749 and 1258. The Abbasids traced their descent from al-‛Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, and were thus able to claim a legitimacy that their predecessors had lacked (see Umayyad, §1). The Abbasids rose to power in north-east Iran by channelling disaffection with Umayyad rule, but they soon established their capitals in a more central location, founding ...

Article

Arab calligrapher and illuminator. He began as a house decorator but turned to calligraphy and refined the ‘proportioned script’ developed a century earlier by Ibn Muqla, in which letters were measured in terms of dots, circles and semicircles. An intimate of court circles in Baghdad, Ibn al-Bawwab was appointed librarian to the Buyid ruler Baha’ al-Dawla (...

Article

Karl-Heinz Golzio

Islamic dynasty that ruled parts of the Sahara, Morocco, Algeria and Spain from 1056 to 1147. The Sanhaja Berber chief Yahya ibn Ibrahim, on returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, founded a reform movement intended to strengthen orthodoxy among the Saharan Berbers, who were only superficially Islamisized, but according to many Arab historiographers they adhered to Kharijite doctrine. With the support of the Malikite jurist Ibn Yasin and the Lamtuna Berber chiefs Yahya ibn ‛Umar and his brother Abu Bakr, a fortress for a Muslim brotherhood (Arab. ...

Article

Amol  

Gordon Campbell

City in northern Iran, close to the Caspian Sea and, from the 11th century to the 13th, centre for the production of a distinctive white slip pottery with incised designs.

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time....

Article

Term used to describe the distinctive relief decoration commonly used on stucco, wood and other arts of the early Islamic period. Characterized by a slanted cut (Ger. Schrägeschnitt), the decoration usually consists of rhythmic and symmetrical repetitions of curved lines with spiral terminals. The style is first documented in the mid-9th century ...

Article

Buyid  

Robert Hillenbrand

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Iran and Iraq from ad 932 to 1062. Civil wars, the erosion of caliphal power by a Turkish military caste, corrupt administration and racial tensions during the 9th century terminally damaged the Abbasid state, and gradually the extremities of the empire in North Africa, Spain, Central Asia and Afghanistan established a ...

Article

Fatimid  

Jonathan M. Bloom

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Ifriqiya (now Tunisia) from ad 909 to 972 and in Egypt from ad 969 to 1171. The Fatimids were Isma‛ili Shi‛ites who traced their ancestry back to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, via Isma‛il, the seventh Shi‛ite Imam. They believed that their rightful position as leaders of the Muslim community had been usurped by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The first Fatimid success was the toppling of the Aghlabid rulers of Ifriqiya in 909. The Fatimid leader ‛Ubayd Allah assumed the title of caliph and the regnal name al-Mahdi (...

Article

Robert Hillenbrand

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Afghanistan, Transoxiana, eastern Iran and northern India from ad 977 to 1186. The founder was Sebüktigin (d 997), a Turkish slave employed by the Samanid dynasty, who eventually defied their authority and set up his own principality with its capital at ...

Article

Ghurid  

R. Nath, Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Dynasty that ruled portions of Afghanistan and north-west India c. 1030–1206. It originated in the Ghur region of Afghanistan; its first fully historical figure is ‛Izz al-Din, who paid tribute to Saljuq and Ghaznavid rulers. Ghaznavid power declined after the death of Mahmud (reg...

Article

Masyaf  

Hafez K. Chehab

Castle and town 45 km east of Hama, Syria. Mentioned as early as the late 11th century, the fortress was built on a rocky promontory on the eastern slopes of the Jabal al-Nusayriyya and displays an impressive vertical mass buttressed with rectangular towers. It is an excellent example of military architecture of the medieval Islamic period, with a curtain wall and numerous rectangular salients and a central keep. Masyaf successfully resisted crusader attacks and was briefly the property of the Banu Munqidh of Shayzar before becoming an Isma‛ili stronghold. In ...

Article

I. G. Bango Torviso

Term traditionally used to describe the art of Christians living in the areas of the Iberian peninsula ruled by Muslims in the 10th and 11th centuries. The Castilian word derives from the Arabic musta‛rib (‘Arabized’) and is to be contrasted with Mudéjar, the term used to describe the art of Islamic inspiration produced for non-Muslim patrons in the areas of the Iberian peninsula reconquered by Christians between ...

Article

Basilio Pavón Maldonado

Spanish term used to describe the architecture and art of Islamic inspiration produced in the areas of the Iberian peninsula reconquered by Christians between 1085, when Alfonso VI of Castile-León (reg 1072–1109) seized Toledo from the Muslims, and the 16th century. The Castilian word derives from the Arabic ...

Article

Muslim  

Arab potter. Twenty complete or fragmentary lustreware vessels signed by Muslim are known. A fragmentary plate with birds in a floral scroll (Athens, Benaki Mus., 11122) is inscribed on the rim ‘[the work of] Muslim ibn al-Dahhan to please … Hassan Iqbal al-Hakimi’. Although the patron has not been identified, his epithet al-Hakimi suggests that he was a courtier of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim (...

Article

Robert Hillenbrand

Turkish Islamic dynasty with branches that ruled in Iran, Iraq and Syria from 1038 to 1194 and in Anatolia from 1077 to 1307.

Arab dominion of the eastern Islamic world came to an end in ad 945 when the caliphs were forced to surrender their temporal authority to their army commanders, who belonged to the Persian Buyid family. Henceforth the caliphs preserved only the forms and not the substance of power. For the next century political control of this huge area passed to various dynasties, principally of Persian origin, among which the Buyid family was pre-eminent. One dynasty alone broke this mould: the Ghaznavids, who controlled Afghanistan, much of the Punjab and parts of eastern Iran. They had begun as Turkish military slaves but had assimilated Perso-Islamic ways. This Turkish hegemony became definitive under the Saljuqs, who dispossessed the Ghaznavids and Buyids alike, took over Baghdad in ...

Article

Sedrata  

Margaret Graves

Site of a settlement in the Sahara in the early Islamic period, near the modern-day Algerian city of Ouargla. Sedrata was briefly the capital of the Khariji sect in North Africa until it was destroyed in the 11th century.

In the 7th century, the Kharijites, a highly conservative opposition party that rejected both the succession of ‛Ali b. Abu Talib as well as that of his rivals, fled from persecution to the Maghrib. The Rustamid dynasty of Kharijites established their capital at Tahart (now in western Algeria), but fled from there to Sedrata in 909 when the Fatimids invaded. The Kharijites remained at Sedrata until it was destroyed in ...

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Muslim dynasty that ruled the Yemen from 1047 to 1138. The Sulayhids, who ruled as representatives of the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, were responsible for restoring Isma‛ili Shi‛ism to the Yemen. The dynasty was founded by ‛Ali ibn Muhammad al-Sulayhi (reg 1047–67), who had come under the influence of a Fatimid missionary; after the missionary’s death, the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir (...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

Muslim dynasty that ruled in parts of North Africa and Spain between ad 972 and 1152. The founder of the dynasty, Ziri ibn Manad (d 972), was a Sanhaja Berber in the service of the Fatimid caliphs, who ruled from Tunisia. In 936 Ziri founded Ashir, the family seat, in the Titeri Mountains 170 km south of Algiers. His son Buluggin (...