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Abarquh  

[Abarqūh]

Iranian town in northern Fars province. A prosperous centre in medieval times, by the 10th century it was fortified with a citadel and had a congregational mosque. The octagonal tower of mortared stone known as the Gunbad-i ‛Ali was erected, according to its inscription, by a Daylamite prince in 1056–7 to contain the remains of his parents. The Masjid-i Birun, a mosque to the south of the town, may be slightly earlier, although it has many later additions. The congregational mosque (rest.), with four iwans around a rectangular court, dates mostly to the 14th century, although the base of the dome chamber probably belongs to the 12th-century mosque. The many mihrabs within the mosque include a particularly fine stucco example (1338). There are also several mud-brick tombs in the town. These square structures have plain exteriors and plastered and painted interiors. One of the earliest is the tomb of Pir Hamza Sabzpush (12th century); the finest was that of Hasan ibn Kay Khusraw (...

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Eleanor Sims

[Shaykh ‛Abbāsī]

(fl 1650–84).

Persian painter. He was one of a small group of artists working in Iran in the second half of the 17th century who painted in an eclectic manner that drew on European images and Mughal Indian styles (see Islamic art, §III, 4(vi)(a)). He appears to have been the earliest of this group, which included Muhammad Zaman and ‛Aliquli Jabbadar, to integrate these ‘exotic’ elements into his work. He invariably inscribed his work with the punning Persian phrase Bahā girift chū gardīd Shaykh ‛Abbāsī (‘It [He] acquired worth when he became Shaykh ‛Abbasi’). The honorific it contains (‛Abbasi; also a type of coin, whence the pun) suggests that he was in the service of Shah ‛Abbas II (reg 1642–66). He also signed paintings during the reign of Shah Sulayman (reg 1666–94).

Shaykh ‛Abbasi illustrated manuscripts and painted miniatures on single leaves of paper and, almost certainly, on lacquered papier-mâché objects, such as penboxes and mirror cases. More than 15 of his known paintings are signed, 8 in one manuscript (Baltimore, MD, Walters A. Mus., MS. W.668), and 25 can be attributed to him. His subjects include portraits of Safavid and Mughal rulers and of the Virgin and Child copied from European prints. His style is unmistakable, combining sure draughtsmanship with pale, transparent colour washes. Unlike Muhammad Zaman, he had a minimal interest in illusionism, restricting himself to darkening the edges of trees and buildings along one side (usually the right). His figures, especially heads and faces, are Indian in appearance as well as in the stippled manner in which they are drawn. His later pictures seem more Indian than his earlier work; Zebrowski proposed a connection with Golconda painting (...

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Abbasid  

Robert Hillenbrand

[‛Abbasid]

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 Baghdad in 762. Although they initially encouraged the support of Shi‛ites, the Abbasids quickly distanced themselves from their erstwhile allies to become champions of orthodoxy. Upon accession, each caliph adopted an honorific title, somewhat like a regnal name, by which he was later known. For the first two centuries, the Abbasids’ power was pre-eminent, and their names were invoked from the Atlantic to western Central Asia. From the middle of the 10th century, however, real power was transferred to a succession of Persian and Turkish dynasts (...

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Çigdem Kafesçioglu and Walter B. Denny

In 

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Absalon  

John-Paul Stonard

[Eshel, Meir]

(b Tel Aviv, Dec 26, 1964; d Paris, Oct 10, 1993).

Israeli sculptor. He adopted the name Absalon on his arrival in Paris in the late 1980s. During his short career he achieved widespread recognition for the 1:1 scale architectural models that he constructed of idealized living units. These wooden models, painted white, demonstrate an obsession with order, arrangement and containment, and have associations both of protective shelters and monastic cells. They were designed to be placed in several cities and to function as living-pods for the artist as he travelled. Exhibiting a series of six ‘cellules’ in Paris in 1993, he described how they were fitted both to his body and to his mental space, but were also able to condition the movements of his body in line with their idealized architecture. Although he denied their apparent utopianism, the sculptures can be viewed as the reduction of the utopian aims of early modern architecture (as seen in the work of the Constructivists, de Stijl and Le Corbusier) to the level of individual subjectivity. This suggests both the failure of architectural social engineering and its inevitable basis in subjective, anti-social vision. Absalon’s habitational units also have an element of protest. In an interview for the ...

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Jaromir Malek

Site of the ancient Egyptian sun temple of King Neuserre (reg c. 2416–c. 2392 bc), on the western bank of the Nile north-west of Abusir, almost opposite the southernmost suburbs of modern Cairo. The temple, called Shesepib re (‘joy of the sun god Re’), is situated at the edge of the Libyan Desert, in the area of the Memphite necropolis.

Six sun temples were built for the state sun god Re-Horakhty by the kings of the 5th Dynasty, but by the late 20th century only two had so far been located. The sun temple of Neuserre was excavated by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing in 1898–1901. Nearly all the reliefs were removed, mostly to German collections, and many perished during World War II. The temple was built mainly of limestone. It consists, from east to west, of the valley temple, causeway and upper temple. This arrangement is similar to that of pyramid complexes and suggests a generally accepted concept of a purpose-built temple during the Old Kingdom. A brick-built bark of the sun god was discovered near by....

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Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

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E. P. Uphill

[now Abū Ruwāsh]

Site of necropolis in Egypt, 9 km north of Giza, which flourished c. 2925–c. 2450 bc. Mud-brick mastaba tombs of 1st Dynasty nobles are the earliest buildings at Abu Rawash. The largest mastaba (26×14 m) has eight large recesses in its long walls and is flanked by eight servants’ burials on its eastern side. Two funerary boats are associated with Tomb M25. The pyramid of King Radjedef of the 4th Dynasty dominates the site. Reached by a gigantic causeway, it is spectacularly situated at a height of c. 157 m above the level of the Nile Valley. It was originally c. 67 m high and 105 m square. The 1500 m causeway originally supported a stone corridor, which, with its side walls, measured 14 m wide, while the embankment below widened to 31.5 m at its base and reached a height of 12 m in places. Most of the stone has been quarried away, but the burial-chamber pit (now open to the sky) gives a good impression of the pyramid’s former splendour. The pyramid stood in a large enclosure (267×217 m) on levelled rock. The funerary temple was never completed as designed, but a boat trench (37×9 m) lies beside the pyramid, and a smaller ritual pyramid stood near by. The easternmost promontory of the mountain range was thought by the German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius to be the rock core of an enormous mud-brick pyramid called by him Pyramid No. 1. In the 1980s the site was worked on by Nabil Swelim, who considered it to be the remains of an enormous step pyramid, with about a quarter of its mass being natural rock. He dated it to the end of the 3rd Dynasty, possibly having been built by King Huni, although other writers have suggested a later date, during the 4th Dynasty....

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R. G. Morkot

Site in Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile in Lower Nubia, 280 km south of Aswan. With the construction of the Aswan Dam in the early 1960s, the temple complex was one of a number of ancient monuments saved by being moved to a new site. Having been cut into pieces and reassembled, it now stands on the shores of Lake Nasser, 64 m higher and 180 m west of its ancient site. It is not known whether any small rock-cut chapels already existed at Abu Simbel, but inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom show that it was already an ancient sacred site when Ramesses II (reg c. 1279–c. 1213 bc) chose it for his most grandiose, and most famous, Nubian monument.

The construction of the Great and Small Temples of Abu Simbel began in the early years of Ramesses II, and they were completed by around the 25th year of his reign. The Great Temple (...

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Sheila S. Blair

[Abu Ṭāhir]

Persian family of potters. The family is sometimes known, somewhat improperly, by the epithet Kashani [al-Kashani, Qashani], which refers to their home town, Kashan. It was a major centre for the production of lustre pottery in medieval Iran, and they were among the leading potters there, working in both the Monumental and the Miniature styles (see Islamic art, §V, 3(iii)). As well as the lustre tiles for many Shi‛ite shrines at Qum, Mashhad, Najaf and elsewhere, they made enamelled and lustred vessels. Three other families of Persian lustre potters are known, but none had such a long period of production. At least four generations of the Abu Tahir family are known from signatures on vessels and tiles, including dados, large mihrabs and grave covers. The family may be traced to Abu Tahir ibn Abi Husayn, who signed an enamelled bowl (Cairo, Mus. Islam. A.). A lustre bowl in the Monumental style (London, N.D. Khalili priv. col.), signed by ...

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S. J. Vernoit

[Abū’l-Qāsim]

(fl c. 1816).

Persian painter. His only known work is a long composition depicting the Qajar monarch Fath ‛Ali Shah (reg 1797–1834) entertained by female musicians and dancers. The only surviving fragments of it are a painting of the shah (London, B. W. Robinson priv. col.) and three paintings of the entertainers (Tehran, Nigaristan Mus., ex-Amery priv. col.). The paintings of a woman playing a drum and of a woman playing a stringed instrument are signed raqam-i kamtarīn Abū’l-Qāsim (‘painted by the most humble Abu’l-Qasim’) and dated 1816, but the third painting showing a woman dancing is half-length and damaged. All the fragments share the same continuous architectural background and scale (a little less than life-size). Robinson has suggested that this mural might be the one described in the mid-19th century by the traveller Robert Binning, who reported that the house he occupied in Shiraz contained a painting of Fath ‛Ali Shah seated in state attended by ten women. The composition extended around three sides of the room and the figures were almost life-size. This identification suggests that Abu’l-Qasim might have been a native of Shiraz....

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Abusir  

Miroslav Verner

[Egyp. Per-Usir; Gr. Busiris]

Ancient Egyptian royal necropolis that flourished during the 5th Dynasty (c. 2465–c. 2325 bc). The site is 25 km south-west of the centre of Cairo and has been intermittently excavated since the beginning of the 19th century by teams of English, French, German, Egyptian and Czech archaeologists.

In the 5th Dynasty the sun cult reached its climax, and, according to legend, the first kings of that dynasty were considered the direct descendants of the sun god Re. Sahure (reg c. 2458–c. 2446 bc), the first king who established his pyramid complex at Abusir, presumably wished to be buried in the vicinity of the sun temple of his predecessor, Userkaf, which stood at the northern outskirts of the necropolis. Sahure’s pyramid was small, and its core was built of poor quality limestone. His pyramid temple, however, was carefully executed in different kinds of stone and richly decorated with reliefs, the whole representing a new stage in the evolution of this type of monument. A small subsidiary pyramid, an enclosure wall, a causeway and a valley temple also originally belonged to the pyramid complex....

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Abydos  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Abdjw]

Egyptian site, c. 50 km south of Sohag, and necropolis of the ancient city of This (perhaps modern Girga), which was briefly the capital of the newly united Egypt in the Late Predynastic period (c. 3000–c. 2925 bc). As the country’s most ancient capital, it remained significant throughout Egyptian history, becoming the principal cult centre of Osiris, a funerary deity who embodied the tradition of kingship. From the later Middle Kingdom (c. 1750 bc), the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc) royal necropolis was believed to contain the tomb of Osiris; because of this, it was visited by pilgrims until Roman times (30 bcad 395). Large cemeteries continued to accumulate, and they were characterized in the latest period by a distinctive Greco-Egyptian type of stele. These merged Egyptian and Classical styles with a largely Egyptian decorative repertory and were increasingly inscribed in Greek. Thus for two millennia Abydos was an important centre of non-royal art, as well as the location of major temples....

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Nimet Özgüç

Site in central Turkey that flourished in the first half of the 2nd millennium bc, in a fertile plain watered by the River Karasu. The oval mound of Acemhöyük, measuring 700×600 m, and 20 m high, rises in the centre of the town of Yeşilova, 18 km north-west of Aksaray; it was surrounded by a lower city 600 m wide, now covered by the modern town. Acemhöyük was thus the largest ancient settlement in this agricultural region, and excavations were begun in 1962 by a Turkish team led by Nimet Özgüç. Some of the objects from the excavations are in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara; most are in the archaeological museums at Niḡde and Aksaray; and a fine collection of ivories from the site is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Occupation of the mound began at least as early as 3000 bc and the surviving architectural remains and artefacts from the Early Bronze Age settlements (levels IX–VI) testify to the existence of a distinctive local culture that nevertheless maintained close links with contemporary settlements in central Anatolia and Cilicia. The lower town was first occupied in ...

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Howard Crane

[Esir; ‛Alā’ al-Dīn ‛Alī ibn ‛Abd al-Karīm]

(b ?Tabriz; d Istanbul, c. 1537).

Ottoman architect. His epithets, acemi (Persian) and esir (prisoner), suggest that he was captured in the 1514 campaign against the Safavids of Iran by the Ottoman sultan Selim I (reg 1512–20). He served as chief imperial architect from at least September 1525 until March 1537. Works attributed to him include the mosque of Çoban Mustafa Pasha (1515) in Eskişehir, the complex of Çoban Mustafa Pasha in Gebze (1519–25) and the mosque and tomb of Selim I in Istanbul (1523). He also founded the Mimar Mosque and dervish hostel (Turk. zaviye), near the Mevlevihane Yeni Kapı in Şehremini, Istanbul, where he is buried. His style is marked by sound engineering and extreme eclecticism. The complex in Gebze, for example, was decorated with marble panelling in the style of Mamluk buildings in Egypt, while the mosque of Selim is a direct quotation of the mosque of Bayezid II in ...

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Margaret Cool Root

Name given to a people of Persian origin, who founded an empire that flourished c. 550–331 bc.

The Achaemenid Persian empire was founded c. 550 bc by Cyrus the Great. At its greatest extent under Darius the Great (reg 522–486 bc), it stretched from the Indus into northern Greece and across Egypt. The Macedonian Alexander the Great (reg 336–323 bc) was able to defeat the Achaemenids in 331 bc only after prolonged military campaigns.

This vast Persian hegemony was rich in legacies of administrative expertise and cultural heritage. Its dynastic name was derived from an 8th-century bc ancestor who ruled as a Persian vassal of the Iranian kingdom of the Medes, who were to inherit great power by conquering the Assyrians in the late 7th century bc. Both the Median overlords and Persian vassals enjoyed access to the Mesopotamian/Iranian artistic heritage. Annals of the Assyrian kings describe the Medes and the Persians living in fortified cities as early as the ...