Islamic Art 2009: Studies on the Art and Culture of the Muslim World

9781872843889: Islamic Art 2009: Studies on the Art and Culture of the Muslim World
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Editors' Note - for this sixth volume of "Islamic Art", we are struck by the many developments that have shaped the issue you hold in your hands. To begin with, it is not the volume so long intended. What had been envisioned as an already-large component of volume-VI instead grew so large that the wiser course seemed to publish it separately: the first supplement to "Islamic Art", "The Painted Ceilings of the Cappella Palatina", by Ernst J. Grube and Jeremy Johns, appeared in 2005. A detailed examination of the complex iconographical content of the paintings which decorate the celebrated ceilings of this building, erected by order of the Norman King of Sicily around 1140, it seeks to identify the multitudinous sources of these paintings. They range from the ancient near East and the Classical world to Romanesque Europe but are overlaid by myriad Islamic forms and manners, especially those developed in the Maghrib and Fatimid Egypt. Unique as a pictorial cycle, the ceilings of the Cappella Palatina may now be seen as an extraordinary and unique fusion of Eastern and Western traditions taking place near the very edge of the Western Islamic world. If Supplement-I to "Islamic Art" focuses on the medieval period in the Muslim West, volume-VI looks primarily toward the Muslim East. In it are studies on metalwork from the earliest Islamic periods to Ottoman tilework of the 20th century - in a setting in the North of England, no less, and on carpets of the great classical period collected by the Medici in Florence. Three studies consider the most significant material forms by which Muslim princes proclaimed paramount positions of power: the building, or modifying, of architectural monuments, and the illustrating of historical texts. Two more studies of images look, first, at those in manuscripts from that most fascinating century of Timurid and Turkman rule; and, then, at the transition from manuscripts illustrated by hand, to printed books with lithographed illustrations. And there is bibliography, the first set of additions and corrections to the extensive bibliography that appeared in the published papers of a symposium (held in Edinburgh in 1990) exploring aspects of the iconography of the arts of Islam, published in 2005 as "Image and Meaning in Islamic Art" and edited by Robert Hillenbrand. Wide-spread as the contributions to volume-VI may appear to be, they nonetheless share connections that may not immediately be evident. Preparing the volume for publication, the primal place of one monument in the collective memory of Muslim culture was seen as ever more evident: the Haram al-Sharif, the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem. Function, form, and exterior decoration of this ultimately unique, and still crucially significant, monument of early Islam are variously addressed: it is cited by Joachim Gierlichs as one example of Muslim victory monuments; it is discussed at some length by Laura Parodi as a highly significant precursor-both formally and notionally-for a development in Muslim India for which, so she argues, the Tomb of Humayun marks one important stage, the practice of circumambulating saintly tombs. And the 20th-century restoration of its 16th-century Ottoman tile facade, originally commissioned by Qanuni Suleyman-Sulayman the Magnificent - as Lavinia Davies recounts, lies behind the contemporaneous tile-revetment of a room in Sledmere House. The name of Sulayman evokes another theme addressed within volume-VI, the primacy of the great Eastern empires of the 16th century. The studies by Marco Spallanzani, Serpil Bagci, and, again, Laura Parodi, all emphasize their importance in this century, as well as the westward breadth of their reach and influence. The third connecting theme of volume-VI is that of technology. Geza Fehervari considers the variety of metal objects held in one private collection that are made of white bronze, haft jsh, an alloy of relatively recent recognition; he discusses the material components that partly shape the range of its forms, uses, and decoration, as well as examining the formal sources and parallels shared by white bronze objects and similar wares of other metals-even other materials, notably glass and ceramic. And technology is the fulcrum on which Ulrich Marzolph's meticulous account of the 18th and 19th-century Iranian illustrations to tales in the Kalilah wa Dimnah tradition turns: the introduction of lithography as an inherently repetitive replacement for individually drawn and colored illustrations, and its effect on the illustrative element of the tales associated with the jackals Kalilah and Dimnah. Barbara Brend's 'Brownish Study' connects entirely different lines of pictorial transmission within the Timurid period, suggestively linking the figure of Sultan Ahmad Jalayir to a class of peculiarly puzzling manuscripts and pictures from much later in the century; moreover, she offers it as a prelude to the Festschrift for Ernst Grube that will be a future supplement to Islamic Art. Since volume-V appeared in 2001, both producer and distributor are new. Saffron Books, and Sajid Rizvi, distribute "Supplement I: The Painted Ceilings of the Cappella Palatina", and will continue to handle forthcoming volumes of "Islamic Art" and future supplements. And we have transferred the work of production to England and Melisende Publishing, under the direction of Leonard Harrow. Indeed, 'Islamic Art' could be seen as one small paradigm for what is nothing less than the technological revolution of the past three decades: volume-I was produced traditionally, in movable type with its considerable set of illustrations laid out by individual sizing; volume-VI has been entirely electronic. If the process has not been without attendant problems-usually of interface and competence-we may also observe that the speed of communication between us and our contributors, in the past months, is only one obvious advantage of this remarkable technology. That all the authors herein published, especially those who have been waiting for some years to see their studies in print, have remained so generously patient and good-natured throughout the process is deeply appreciated by the editors: 'We are immensely grateful to them all. We are also profoundly grateful to Dr. Alessandro Bruschettini, President of the Bruschettini Foundation for Islamic and Asian Art in Genoa, for his continuing forbearance and his faith that, in moving to Melisende Publishing and the UK, we should so quickly be able to produce this large, lavishly illustrated volume. We thank Leonard for his calm and patient tutelage, for practiced advice, and for the sheer pleasure of working with someone who knows the languages of our field and the world our authors write about! We thank the friends and colleagues who have offered photographic assistance at very short notice: pictures taken by the late Estelle Whelan were made splendidly available by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, while Warwick Ball and Sir Christopher Sykes also provided photographs at virtually the last moment; all enhance the sense of place for the architectural monuments studied within this volume, from Yorkshire to Diyarbakr and Bukhara. Since the publication of "Islamic Art V" in 2001, we must also record many losses to our professional community. Among contributors to past issues, we note that the long and productive life of B.W.Robinson, doyen of the study of Persian painting, came to an end in the last days of 2005; Marianne Barrucand succumbed in 2008 to a long illness. Other notable deaths in these years include: Johanna Zick-Nissen (2001); Abdel-Racuf Ali Yousuf (2002); Umberto Scerrato (2004); Godfrey Goodwin (2005); Boris Marshak (2006); Stuart Cary Welch (2008); Patricia Baker (2008); and, most recently, one of our best-loved colleagues, Ralph Pinder-Wilson, who passed away just 3 months short of his 90th birthday, in October of 2008, and to whose memory Lavinia Davies' study in this issue is dedicated. Lastly, we also record the deaths of two friends, both special colleagues and firm supporters who, in various ways, made possible the first appearance of "Islamic Art": Professor William Watson, then Director of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art at the University of London, had in 1979 offered the forum of the 10th in his series of 'Colloquies on Art & Archaeology' in Asia, for a parallel volume that would enlarge the usual format of the Colloquy; and Mehdi Mahboubian, our first sponsor. Bill passed away in the spring of 2007, and Mehdi in 2005, a quarter of a century after his generous gift made possible our first volume - which had been printed by movable type. His passing, as do all the others noted with sorrow above, signals in so many ways the passing of an era: we mourn them all and extend our sympathies to their families' - "The Editors London", November 2008.

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About the Author:

Ernst J Grube received a doctorate from the Freie Universitaet in Berlin in 1955 and then was assistant to Ernst Kuehnel at the Staatliche Museen. In 1958 he went to The Metropolitan Museum in New York where, from 1962 to 1969 he worked in the Department of Islamic Art, becoming Curator in 1965; he was also Adjunct Professor of Islamic Art at Columbia University, and later taught Medieval and Islamic Art at the City University of New York. In 1972 he moved to Italy; there he taught Islamic art history, first in Padua and then, at the Oriental Institute in Naples, ultimately becoming Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Venice, where he taught between 1977 and 1988; between 1973 and 1978 he was also a member of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Iran. In the early 1980's he founded the journal Islamic Art. He has written over 150 scholarly articles and reviews, and a number of books, on all aspects of Islamic art. Most recent are Keshte, a catalogue of the Wolf Collection of Central Asian embroideries, and a major study of the painted ceilings of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, published as the first Supplement to Islamic Art in 2005. The second volume on ceramics in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, A Rival to China, Later Islamic Pottery, is in preparation. Eleanor Sims has a doctorate in Islamic art history from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York City and has worked in the Islamic Department of The Metropolitan Museum. In the 1970's she taught at the Universities of Minnesota and Pennsylvania, as well as spending parts of each year with the Italian Archaeological Mission in Iran, studying the painted surfaces of both the Mausoleum of Oljaytu, in Sultaniyyah, and the Safavid buildings of Isfahan. Since the early 1980's, she has been professionally based in London, researching and writing on Islamic painting, and editing the journal Islamic Art with Ernst J. Grube. A prize-winning volume on the themes of Iranian painting, Peerless Images, was published in 2002. Forthcoming books include The Persian Book of Kings: The Windsor Castle Shahnama of 1648, with the late B. W. Robinson and Manijeh Bayani, written for the Roxburghe Club; and Visions of the Past: History and Epic Paintings from Iran and Turkey, based on the Nasser D. Khalili Collection.

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