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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

Lucy-Anne Hunt, Hero Granger-Taylor and Dominic Montserrat

A disputed term adopted by art historians to denote early and medieval Christian art in Egypt as well as art undertaken for pagan patrons in Late Roman and Early Christian Egypt. ‘Copt’ derives from the pharaonic name for Egypt via the Greek aigyptos and the Arabic qibṭ, the word used by the Muslim Arab invaders after ad 641 to refer to the Christian inhabitants of Egypt; in modern usage the term is also applied in a narrow sense to the Monophysite national church.

Lucy-Anne Hunt

According to tradition, St Mark brought Christianity to Egypt in the reign of Nero (reg ad 54–68). Its rapid spread was undoubtedly accelerated by the deteriorating conditions that had prevailed in the country since the Roman conquest of 30 bc. Already by ad 190 the first important institution of religious learning in Christian antiquity, the Catechetical School, had been established in Alexandria; its emergence coincided with the first direct attacks on the city’s Christians. These continued under subsequent Roman emperors, culminating in the persecutions under Diocletian (...

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

L. Glynne Davies

(b Amsterdam, Feb 24, 1897; d London, July 16, 1954).

Dutch archaeologist and cultural historian. After studying at the University of Amsterdam and under Flinders Petrie at University College, London, he directed the Egypt Exploration Society’s excavations at Akhenaten’s city of Amarna, (Tell) el- and elsewhere (1925–9). He was Field Director of the Iraq Expedition of the Oriental Institute of Chicago from 1929 to 1937 and conducted excavations at the Assyrian site of Khorsabad and in the Diyala region; the latter made an important contribution to knowledge of the art of the Sumerians, particularly of their architecture and of the Early Dynastic period (c. 2900–2500 bc). He held professorships at Chicago, Amsterdam and London and was Director of the Warburg Institute from 1949 to 1954. In 1954 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and he was also Corresponding Member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

Frankfort was a scholar of immense range, insight and artistic sensibility, with an abiding concern for the interrelations of the cultures of the ancient Aegean, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and he was instrumental in defining a structure for the integrated study of early Near Eastern civilizations. It was characteristic of his approach to see artefacts as works of art that could lead to a deeper understanding of ancient cultures, rather than merely as sources of historical data: his ...

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

A. Wallert

[Lat.: ‘Little key of painting’]

Medieval compendium of recipes. It possibly originated in northern France or Germany. Like the Compositiones variae, it can be related to knowledge of ancient Egyptian origin and early Greek alchemist texts. Some of its recipes are literal translations of texts in the Leiden papyrus (3rd century ad; Leiden, Rijksmus. Oudhd., MS. X). The Mappae clavicula has descriptions of the nature and preparation of various minerals, herbs, woods, stones, and chemicals. It contains recipes for making glues, solder, and pigments and many recipes of a metallurgical nature. It also has instructions for dyeing both textiles and skins for parchment in purple, for writing in gold and silver and for making gold leaf.

The most complete copy of the Mappae clavicula is in a 12th-century manuscript (Corning, NY, Mus. Glass, Phillipps MS. 3715), which was published in transcript in 1847. An earlier copy is dated to the 10th century (Sélestat, Bib. Human., MS. 17), while the earliest fragments of the ...

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

[tribal art]

The market for ‘tribal art’ emerged in the first decades of the 20th century. By way of avant-garde artists and pioneering dealers, African and Oceanic art slowly became accepted as ‘art’—with its inclusion in the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 2000 as a decisive endorsement. Initially, it was referred to as ‘primitive art’—alluding to an early ‘primitive’ stage in human development; later replaced by the equally biased ‘tribal art’. While still used widely among dealers and collectors (for want of a better word and being conveniently short), the term ‘tribe’, or its derivative ‘tribal’, is frowned upon by the scholarly community.

The foundations of the tribal art market were laid at the turn of the 20th century. European powers colonized large overseas territories in both Africa and Oceania and, along with other commodities, there arrived ethnographic artefacts. Europeans had conducted coastal trade with many African regions over centuries, but systematic explorations of the continental hinterland did sometimes not take place until the first decades of the 20th century. These resulted in the discovery of previously unknown cultures whose ritual objects, such as masks, were displayed during world’s fairs and colonial exhibitions. Many of these objects ended up in newly established museums, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, outside Brussels. Vigorous competitors in the collection of ethnographic objects in both Africa and Oceania, these museums became the leading players in the early phases of the tribal art market’s development. Next to these large-scale official collecting activities, colonial, military, or missionary personnel also brought home exotic objects....

Article

Kimberly Bobier

(b El Nuhud, 1951).

Sudanese multimedia and performance artist, art critic, and art historian, active in France. Musa graduated from the College of Fine and Applied Art, Khartoum Polytechnic, in 1974. After moving to Italy from Sudan, Musa relocated to France and matriculated at Montpellier University, earning ah Doctorate in Art History in 1989 and a teaching diploma in Fine Arts from Montpellier University in 1995. Subsequently, Musa created artist’s books and illustrated tomes of Sudanese folktales and taught calligraphy. His work critiques European imperialism by parodying the authoritative spectacles of Western museum displays, popular icons, and artistic masterpieces such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1500–07; Paris, Louvre) and Gustave Courbet’s the Origin of the World (1866; Paris, Mus. Orsay), both referenced in Musa’s The Origin of Art (1998). Musa’s artwork has frequently addressed stereotypes of Africans and Arabs.

From the late 1980s Musa’s ongoing performance series ‘Graphic Ceremonies’ engaged public audiences in exploring the intersection between the art exhibition and ritual. In a performance at the ...

Article

Article

Noémie Goldman and Kim Oosterlinck

Term for the return of lost or looted cultural objects to their country of origin, former owners, or their heirs. The loss of the object may happen in a variety of contexts (armed conflicts, war, colonialism, imperialism, or genocide), and the nature of the looted cultural objects may also vary, ranging from artworks, such as paintings and sculptures, to human remains, books, manuscripts, and religious artefacts. An essential part of the process of restitution is the seemingly unavoidable conflict around the transfer of the objects in question from the current to the former owners. Ownership disputes of this nature raise legal, ethical, and diplomatic issues. The heightened tensions in the process arise because the looting of cultural objects challenges, if not breaks down, relationships between peoples, territories, cultures, and heritages.

The history of plundering and art imperialism may be traced back to ancient times. Looting has been documented in many instances from the sack by the Romans of the Etruscan city of Veii in ...

Article

John Baines

(b Berlin, Oct 29, 1868; d Hessisch-Lichtenau, April 6, 1957).

German Egyptologist and writer. He studied Egyptology at Berlin University and began work in the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin, before completing his doctorate in 1892. He remained in the museum all his working life, travelling principally for fieldwork in Egypt, which included seasons at Abu Ghurab, Abusir and Philae.

Schäfer was an outstanding historian and analyst of Egyptian art and made a vital contribution to the general theory of art. He published studies of individual works and made Egyptian art accessible to the public, as well as collaborating with Walter Andrae (1875–1956) on the standard history of Ancient Near Eastern art, Die Kunst des alten Orients. More important is his work on representation, on which he wrote many articles and smaller works, synthesizing his results in Von ägyptischer Kunst. The first two editions are concerned with two-dimensional representation, the third and fourth with two and three dimensions and with the general character of Egyptian art. The two-dimensional studies are the most important. Schäfer showed in detail how a non-perspectival system operates, and he examined Egyptian art primarily from the viewpoint of the ancient Egyptians themselves. He proposed two universal representational strategies, which he termed ‘pre-Greek’ (non-perspectival) and ‘Greek’ (incorporating foreshortening). His explanation of the character of ‘pre-Greek’ representation as based on mental images is not ultimately satisfactory, and there is still no convincing solution to this question, but his analysis of and insight into the problems remain fundamental....

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....