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Article

Judith McKenzie, Gordon Campbell, R. R. R. Smith, Wiktor A. Daszewski, A. H. Enklaar, Dominic Montserrat, C. Walters, Wladyslaw B. Kubiak, Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Egyptian city situated on the Mediterranean coast west of the delta of the River Nile, capital of Egypt from c. 320 bc to ad 642, seaport and centre of ancient Greek culture.

Judith McKenzie

Alexandria was founded in 331 bc by Alexander, on the site of the small Egyptian settlement of Rhakotis. Its location, with access by canal to the River Nile, enabled it to become an important and highly prosperous trading centre, and by c. 320 bc Alexandria was the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt. During Ptolemaic times (304–30 bc) it became a major centre of learning, with famous scholars of literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and geography, and it played a major role in the transmission of Greek culture to the East.

With the defeat of the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII (51–30 bc), by Octavian (later called Augustus) at the Battle of Actium in 30...

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

Stephen Hill

(Margaret Lowthian)

(b Washington, Co. Durham, July 14, 1868; d Baghdad, 11/July 12, 1926).

English archaeologist and architectural historian. The first woman to achieve a first-class honours in modern history at Oxford University, she travelled widely in Europe, Japan and especially the Middle East in the 1890s, achieving fluency in a number of European languages as well as in Persian, Turkish and Arabic. She developed an interest in archaeology and architecture that was reflected in an authoritative set of articles on the Early Byzantine churches of Syria and southern Turkey, based on her travels in 1905. Her first major travel book, The Desert and the Sown, contains a mixture of travellers’ tales and archaeological information, as does her Amurath to Amurath. Between 1905 and 1914 she made archaeological studies of the Early Byzantine and Early Islamic monuments of Turkey, Syria and Mesopotamia (now Iraq). In 1905 and 1907 she surveyed Binbirkilise with Sir William Ramsay; their book, The Thousand and One Churches, remains the authoritative account of this important site. The architectural recording by survey and photography at Binbirkilise was carried out by Bell and is a lasting monument in its own right. Bell’s interest in Anatolia was inspired by Josef Strzygowski and his book ...

Article

(b London, Feb 26, 1905; d off Stornaway, Feb 24, 1941).

British writer and traveller. His travels in Greece in 1925–7 resulted in two books, The Station and The Byzantine Achievement, in which he presented readers brought up on the culture of Classical antiquity with a novel view of the importance of the civilization of Byzantium and the seminal influence of its art on the later development of European painting. In The Birth of Western Painting he developed this line of thought with a reassessment of El Greco as the ‘last and greatest flower of Byzantine genius’. His best-known book is The Road to Oxiana, a record of travels through Persia and Afghanistan in 1933–4 in search of the origins of Islamic architecture and culture. He contributed a conspectus of Timurid architecture and photographs taken on his journeys to the Survey of Persian Art. Although his views were often coloured by personal enthusiasm and prejudices (for example his hatred of the historical writings of Edward Gibbon) a surprising number of his insights into Byzantine and Islamic culture have been confirmed by later scholarship, and he played a major role in bringing these cultures to the attention of educated readers. He was also a founder-member of the ...

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

S. J. Vernoit

(b Lölling, July 27, 1878; d Vienna, July 8, 1961).

Austrian historian of Byzantine, Islamic and Indian art. He studied art history and archaeology at the universities of Vienna and Graz and in 1902 completed his doctorate at Graz under Josef Strzygowski and Wilhelm Gurlitt, a study of the paintings in a manuscript of Dioskurides’ De materia medica (Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., Cod. med. gr. 1) copied for the Byzantine princess Juliana Anicia before ad 512. After military service (1902–3), Diez pursued further research in Rome and Istanbul and worked in Vienna as a volunteer (1905–7) at the Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie. From 1908 to 1911 he worked in Berlin at the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum with Max Jacob Friedländer, Wilhelm Bode and Friedrich Sarre. He was then appointed lecturer at the University of Vienna. From 1912 to 1914 he made trips to Iran, India, Egypt and Anatolia, which led to articles on Islamic art and architecture and ...

Article

Iznik  

Mark Whittow and Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu

[formerly Nicaea; Nikaia]

Turkish town in the eastern bay of Lake Iznik (anc. Ascania), with important Byzantine and early Ottoman remains. The earliest settlements on the site date to the 1st millennium bc. In 316 bc Antigonos Monophthalmos, a general of Alexander the Great, expanded the existing town and called it Antigonia. It was conquered by Lysimachos in 301 bc and renamed Nicaea after his wife. In 281 bc it came under the rulers of Bithynia, gaining importance before falling to Roman domination in 72 bc. In the 3rd and 4th centuries ad it thrived as the site of an imperial treasury and a major military base on the strategic road linking the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire to Italy and the Rhine frontier. Byzantine rule lasted until 1081 when the city was captured by Sulayman and a group of Seljuk Turks and established as capital of the first Turkish state in Asia Minor. In ...

Article

Hafez K. Chehab

[Crac de Montréal; Montréal; Mons Regalus; Shaubak; Shawbak]

Castle in Jordan, south of Amman. Built in 1115 by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem (reg 1100–18) to menace the pilgrimage road to Mecca, the castle of Monreal surrendered to the Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din (Saladin) in 1189. It was given to his brother al-Malik al-Adil (reg 1196–1218), whose son al-Mu‛azzam (reg 1218–27) enlarged and restored the fortress in 1226. Under the Mamluks (reg 1250–1517) it was known as Shawbak and became the centre of a district of the province of Kerak. Remains include several round towers and a deep well with a stairway said to lead to a spring, as well as two fragmentary churches with pointed vaults. Most of the fortress was rebuilt by the Ayyubids and Mamluks, but by 1340 the site was described as abandoned.

E. Brünnow and A. von Domaszewski: Die Provincia Arabia, 1 (Strasbourg, 1904), pp. 113–19P. Deschamps: ‘Les Deux Cracs des croisés’, ...

Article

Alan Borg

[Arab. Ḥisṇ al-Akrād]

Crusader castle in Syria. It is generally considered to be the finest of all crusader castles, but this reputation is to some extent an accident of scholarship, for it remains the only such castle to have been thoroughly investigated and restored. This work was done by a French team, led by Paul Deschamps. Krak represents the ultimate development of crusader fortification, however, and the earlier phases are better studied at the equally impressive sites of Saone (Sahyun) and Margat (al-Marqab) in Syria and Kerak (al-Karak) in Jordan. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

The stone castle of Krak occupies a dominant hilltop, near two Roman roads and overlooking a fertile valley (see fig.). The site was apparently occupied by a fortress as early as the 13th century bc. It was mentioned in Arab texts in ad 1031, when a settlement of Kurds was established, with a small castle. These fell to a crusading force in ...

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

Fernando Marías

[Sp. plateresco, from platero, ‘silversmith’]

Term used to describe the elaborately decorated Late Gothic and early Renaissance architecture of 16th-century Spain. Its characteristically florid decoration employs motifs derived from Gothic, Italian Renaissance and Islamic sources and tends to mask the structure it adorns. The term is also applied, more generally, to the decorative arts of the same period. The comparison between sculpture and architectural decoration and gold- or silverwork in terms of style and skill was commonplace in Spanish literature in the 16th and 17th centuries, including art criticism (from Cristóbal de Villalón in 1539 to Lope de Vega). Contemporary authors did not distinguish between architectural decoration and embroidery or filigree work; there is no reference to specific decorative motifs, only to general forms of handicraft. The term was apparently first used in an anonymous drawing (c. 1580) for the decoration of a frieze in the chapter house of Seville Cathedral. The term ...

Article

Rusafa  

Thilo Ulbert

[al-Ruṣāfa; Assyrian Rasappa; Bibl. Rezeph; Gr. Rhesafa; Lat. Risafa, Rosafa; Byz. Sergiopolis; Arab. Ruṣāfat Hišham; Resafa]

Site of an ancient city in northern Syria c. 200 km east of Aleppo and 30 km south of the River Euphrates, with both Byzantine and Islamic remains. Although it was known from earlier travellers’ reports, full descriptions of the monuments were not published until the early 20th century. Excavations were undertaken by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut from 1952, directed first by Kollwitz and from 1976 by Ulbert.

Although the city is attested in both Assyrian and biblical sources (2 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 37:12), the earliest known architectural information is from the 3rd century ad, when Diocletian (reg 283–305) established it as a frontier fortress. Around ad 300 a high-ranking officer in the eastern Roman army, Sergius, was executed there. The martyr’s remains were originally buried outside the walls and became the focus of a cult. From the late 5th century onwards Rusafa was one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the eastern Mediterranean and was already an episcopal see. By the late ...

Article

N. B. Nemtseva

[Shakhrisyabz]

Town in Uzbekistan. Located south of the Aq Sai range (Zeravshanskiy Khrebet) in the Kashka River basin, the town was part of southern Sogdiana in ancient times. In early medieval times the main town in the region was known as Kish, but, after it was destroyed by the Mongols, a new town grew up around the remains of the abandoned settlement at the end of the 13th century. In the 14th century the small unfortified town was renamed Shahr-i Sabz (Pers. ‘green town’). The Timurid ruler Timur was born in the nearby village of Khwaja-i-Ghar, and in the 1360s and 1370s Shahr-i Sabz became his winter quarters and during his reign the second royal residence after Samarkand. In 1378–9 the centre of the town was surrounded with walls 4 km long, articulated with half-towers and four gates; beyond the walls lay a moat with drawbridges. Two axial streets divided the town into quadrants. The north-east quarter contained a park with ...

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....