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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.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

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

Katrin Kogman-Appel

Hebrew Bible (Jerusalem, National.. Library of Israel., MS. Heb 4°790, and a single page in Toledo, El Transito Synagogue and Sephardic Museum), copied c. 1260, perhaps in Toledo by Menachem ben Abraham ibn Malikh for Isaac bar Abraham Hadad, both members of known and documented Toledan families. At some later stage further decorations were added, apparently in Burgos. The Damascus Keter is an outstanding exemplar out of approximately 120 decorated Bibles from Iberia and belongs to a group of three very similar codices from the middle of the 13th century, produced in Toledo. It thus represents a rich tradition of Jewish art flourishing between the 13th and the 15th centuries. These Bibles were used either by scholars for private study, or for biblical readings during synagogue services.

Typical of numerous Bibles from the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula, the decoration consists of numerous carpet pages executed in Micrography and enriched by painted embellishments. This is a technique typically used in Hebrew decorated books and harks back to Middle Eastern manuscripts of the 10th century. Apart from the carpet pages, the Damascus ...

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

Maskana  

J.-C. Margueron

[Mesken; Meskene; Miskina]

Small town in north Syria on the south bank of the River Euphrates near an ancient site known in antiquity as Emar, in Byzantine times as Barbalissos and in Islamic times as Balis. It lay on an ancient trade route between the Mediterranean, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The site was excavated in 1929 and again between 1971 and 1976 during salvage operations accompanying the building of the Tabqa Dam. The minaret was dismantled and rebuilt on higher ground, but the ancient site and Maskana itself have been flooded by Lake Assad. Finds are in the National Museum, Aleppo, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris; objects looted from the site are in numerous private collections.

J.-C. Margueron

This Bronze Age city flourished during the 3rd and 2nd millennia bc as a staging-post on a major trade route, where not only goods but also ideas and influences were exchanged. The city is mentioned in the Ebla texts of the second half of the 3rd millennium ...

Article

Herbert Kessler

(b Jerusalem, Dec 14, 1926; d Jerusalem, June 29, 2008).

Israeli art historian of Jewish art. Educated first at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he moved to London and earned an MA in art history at the Courtauld Institute (1959) and a PhD at the Warburg Institute (1962). Returning to Jerusalem, Narkiss rose steadily through the ranks from 1963 when he began teaching at the Hebrew University and, in 1984, was appointed Nicolas Landau Professor of Art History. He also held fellowships and visiting positions at: Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies in Washington, DC (1969–70); the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (1979–80); the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University (1983), Brown University in Providence, RI (1984–5); the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris (1987–8); the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in Washington, DC (Samuel H. Kress Professor ...