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Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

Article

Barry Bergdoll

(b Marseille, Nov 26, 1787; d Marseille, Feb 8, 1879).

French architect and writer. The designer of many of the principal public buildings of Marseille, he also published the first accurate records of the Islamic monuments of Cairo, North Africa and the Middle East—a central interest of mid-19th-century architectural theorists and ornamentalists.

After studying both engineering and drawing in Marseille, Coste began his career in 1804 as site inspector and draughtsman for the Neo-classicist Michel-Robert Penchaud, a municipal and departmental architect, for whom he worked for a decade. In 1814, on the recommendation of the architects Percier & Fontaine, he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the ateliers of Antoine-Laurent-Thomas Vaudoyer and Jean-Baptiste Labadye (1777–1850). An encounter in Paris with the geographer Jombert, who had been a member of the scientific mission that accompanied Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, was to influence his subsequent career. In 1817 Jombert recommended Coste to Muhammad ‛Ali, Khedive of Egypt (...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

(b Zagazig, Dec 20, 1906; d Cairo, Feb 21, 1963).

Egyptian historian, sociologist, playwright, literary critic, linguist and art historian. He attended secondary school at the Jesuit Collège de la Sainte-Famille, Cairo, and then pursued his higher education under Ahmad Zaki Pasha in Cairo and at the Sorbonne in Paris under the Orientalists Louis Massignon and Maurice Gaudefroy-Demombynes. In 1932 he completed two doctoral theses on pre-Islamic Arabia, one on the concept of honour, the other on the nature of linguistic exposition. He travelled widely in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey, and in the 1940s began to dedicate more time to writing plays, short stories and literary criticism. He was also editor of the literary journal Al-Muqtaṭaf and researched Egyptian folklore. From 1948 he was consultant to the Egyptian delegation to UNESCO and from 1958 secretary-general of the French Institut d’Egypte. From 1942 he wrote about Islamic art, especially illustrated manuscripts of the 12th to the 14th century from Iraq and Syria, from the point of view of aesthetics and Christian and Muslim iconography. He also wrote about the lawfulness of painting in Islam. He discovered several important Arabic manuscripts with illustrations, and his interpretation of Arab painting was enriched by his extensive knowledge of history and literature. He published academic works and drama in French and Arabic and was one of the first Arab historians to write about Islamic art. He also supported modern art movements, publishing an open letter to the Soviet president Khrushchev in ...

Article

Hasan-Uddin Khan and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

(b Alexandria, March 23, 1900; d Cairo, Nov 30, 1989).

Egyptian architect, teacher and writer. He graduated in architecture (1926) from the High School of Engineering, University of King Fuad I (now University of Cairo), and then worked at the Department of Municipal Affairs, Cairo (1926–30). He subsequently began to teach at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the university (1930–46 and 1953–7) while working independently as an architect. Fathy’s work can be considered in five main phases (see Steele, 1988). His early projects (1928–37) reveal his interest in the classical Beaux-Arts tradition, Art Deco and other trends fashionable in Europe at the time. In his second phase (1938–56) he developed the interest in indigenous building that made him internationally known. Starting with villas, the use of mud-brick and a preoccupation with the rural poor, Fathy evolved a new aesthetic that irrevocably linked him to local vernacular building traditions. This new direction was expressed in a series of beautiful gouaches and coloured pencil drawings (see Richards, Serageldin and Rastorfer, pls 1–8) exhibited in Mansoura and Cairo in ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

(Andrew)

(b Cairo, Oct 28, 1892; d London, May 26, 1969).

Merchant banker and collector. He was the elder son of Sir Victor Harari Pasha, a leading member of the Anglo-Jewish community in Egypt, and was educated at Lausanne and Pembroke College, Cambridge. On returning to Egypt, he became a junior officer in the Palestine campaign of Edmund Allenby and then finance officer to Ronalds Storrs, the military governor of Jerusalem. In 1920 he served under Herbert Samuel as director of the Department of Commerce and Trade in the British Mandate, but returned to Egypt in 1925 to help in the family business. With the outbreak of World War II, he became economic adviser to GHQ Middle East, and then served under Peter Ritchie-Calder, the director of plans in the Department of Political Warfare in London. After the war, he stayed in London as managing director of the merchant bank S. Japhet & Co., and when it was taken over he joined the board of the Charterhouse group. From the 1920s he was interested in Islamic metalwork, becoming an authority on the subject and contributing a chapter to the ...

Article

Oleg Grabar

(b Cairo, July 1908; d Baghdad, March 1957).

Egyptian historian. He was educated at the University of Cairo and in Paris, where he obtained his doctorate in 1934 with a thesis on the history and culture of Egypt in the 9th century ad. In Cairo he moved between the university—where he taught history—the Department of Antiquities and the Museum of Arab (later Islamic) Art, where he became director in 1951. After the 1952 revolution in Egypt, he went to Iraq, where he chaired the Department of Antiquities and Civilization at Baghdad University. His publications illustrate the multiple concerns of his generation, born in the ‘Third World’ and trained in the West to educate youth in the values of their cultural past through the medium of Western techniques and institutions. His scholarly work is exemplified by his study on the treasures of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt (reg 969–1171). He also tried to meet the traditional opposition to the visual arts by writing on the specific theological issues involved and showing how the Islamic tradition never gave up representation. His third concern was pedagogical, and he wrote mostly in Arabic to reach a mass of people untouched by Western scholarship. His last major work was an atlas of Islamic painting and decorative arts, designed to make Islamic art known to those whose cultural heritage it is....

Article

Michael Curschmann

The medieval term mappa mundi (also forma mundi, historia/istoire) covers a broad array of maps of the world of which roughly 1100 survive. These have resisted systematic classification, but the clearly dominant type is one that aims at comprehensively symbolistic representation. Its early, schematic form is a disc composed of three continents surrounded and separated from one another by water (“T-O Map”) and associated with the three sons of Noah: Asia (Shem) occupies all of the upper half, Europe (Japhet) to the left and Africa (Ham) to the right share the lower half. Quadripartite cartographic schemes included the antipodes as a fourth continent, but the tripartite model was adopted by the large majority of the more developed world maps in use from the 11th century on and—with important variations—well into the Renaissance. While details were added as available space permitted, the Mediterranean continued to serve as the vertical axis and, with diminishing clarity, the rivers Don and Nile as the horizontal one. The map also continues to be ‘oriented’ towards Asia, where paradise sits at the very top. A circular ocean forms the perimeter and not infrequently the city of Jerusalem constitutes its centre....

Article

Oleg Grabar

(b 1876; d 1962).

French historian. He was trained as a painter and an engraver. A visit to his brother, William, who was director of a school in Algeria, led Georges to the study of Arabic, a thesis on the Berbers in North Africa and a life devoted to Islamic art in North Africa. He was professor at the University of Algiers (1919–44). Marçais was a prolific writer on subjects ranging from history to ethnography and technology, but the main thrust of his work was architecture, and L’Architecture musulmane d’occident remains the standard work on the subject. Beyond the clarity of expression that characterizes most of his work, his importance lies in the presence of two ideologically significant, although not fully expressed, themes. One is the nurturing of a western Islamic (Spanish and North African) artistic and cultural regionalism with a Roman substratum, which he set up in opposition to a supposed pan-Islamic cultural unity centred on the Middle East. As a consequence, Marçais helped to develop local as well as national museums as a focus for local pride in art. The second is the organization of the history of Islamic art by dynasties, so that stylistic variations are more clearly uncovered than through the study of constant diachronic cultural forms. This conception lessens the power and significance of any one monument, but lets readers and visitors feel that what they see is deeply wedded to the land that surrounds it and to the people and events that made it. In addition to books and surveys of architecture, Marçais wrote a number of articles dealing with the central questions of Islamic art such as urbanism, the representation of living beings and the arabesque. With acuity and precision, he drew attention to what is essential in a work of art and what features are peculiar to Islamic art....

Article

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

(b. Rochefort-sur-Mer, Nov 15, 1923).

French scholar of Islamic art. After earning degrees in classical Arabic (1946) and Islamic art (1948) in Paris, she was associated with the French institute in Damascus from 1949 to 1954, and traveled to Turkey, Egypt and Afghanistan. She returned to Paris, where she wrote her thesis at the Ecole Practique des Hautes Etudes (1957) and taught there and at the Sorbonne, where she became vice-president (1982–9). She married to Dominique Sourdel, the eminent French historian of Islam, with whom she often collaborated on synthetic studies of Islamic civilization. Her own specialty is the study of Arabic epigraphy, a field that she studied with Jean Sauvaget , and she meticulously analyzed the inscriptions on many major monuments from Syria to Afghanistan.

J. Sourdel-Thomine: Epitaphe coufiques de Bab Saghir, iv of Les monuments Ayyoubides de Damas (Paris, 1950) J. Sourdel-Thomine: “Deux minarets d’époque seljoukide en Afghanistan,” ...

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

Sheila R. Canby

( Kyrle )

(b London, Oct 13, 1897; d Sharon, CT, April 18, 1986).

American archaeologist, curator and collector . Trained as an artist at the Slade School, University College, London, in 1920 he joined the graphic section of the Egyptian Expedition to Thebes, organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. During the 1920s and 1930s Wilkinson painted facsimiles of Egyptian tomb paintings in the museum collection, and he joined museum excavations in the Kharga Oasis (Egypt) and Qasr-i Abu Nasr and Nishapur (Iran). Transferred to the curatorial staff of the museum in 1947, he became curator in 1956 of the new Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, which merged with the Department of Islamic Art in 1957. Through his energetic collaboration on major excavations at Hasanlu, Nimrud and Nippur, Wilkinson greatly expanded the Ancient Near Eastern collections at the Metropolitan Museum. After his retirement from the museum in 1963, he taught Islamic art at Columbia University and was Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Middle Eastern Art and Archaeology at the Brooklyn Museum, New York (...