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Central Islamic Lands

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Richard Ettinghausen et al.

From The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250
© 1987 Yale University Press
Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press


Although during most of this period the once omnipotent Abbasid caliphate was only a shadow of its former self and, for all intents and purposes, virtually powerless, the textiles of Baghdad were both highly esteemed in medieval Europe and also much in demand there; indeed, European languages have been enriched by terms drawn from their names. From Baldacco, the Italian designation for Baghdad, is derived the term baldacchino for luxury textiles, especially those used for canopies; in England the fabrics of Baghdad were called baudekin, or baldachin. Matthew Paris, the English monk and historian (d. 1259), mentioned that Henry III wore a robe de preciosissimo Baldekino at an investiture at Westminster Abbey in 1247. Inventories of St Paul's Cathedral from 1245 and 1295 indicate that these baudekins were patterned with roundels containing griffins' heads and diminutive lions, double-headed birds with wings displayed, elephants, men on horseback, archers, and 'Samson the Strong'.225 Most of these textiles we know only through literary references, which are, however, not precise enough to permit definite identification with preserved fabrics.226

Happily, however, there are two textiles that, though manufactured in Spain, do give some clue as to the appearance of these costly fabrics, namely a fragment in Leon and the silk [458].227 Although, in the inscriptions on both, Baghdad is claimed as the city of origin, technical features as well as paleographic details reveal that the silks are actually Spanish copies of Iraqi originals. Their compositions, based on a series of roundels framing pairs of animals or fantastic creatures in symmetrical arrangements, represent medieval paraphrases of Sasanian textile designs and are thus closely related to contemporary Iranian silks [251]. Such circumstantial evidence is corroborated by the statements of the twelfth-century Arab geographer al-Idrisi and the early seventeenth-century Maghribi author al-Maqqari mentioning that 'attabi fabrics (named after the 'Attabiyya quarter of Baghdad) were made at Almeria in Spain.228 There are many other such references to the copying of textile patterns in distant parts of the medieval Muslim world, and this testimony helps to explain the difficulty of distinguishing between the products of different regions.

In the thirteenth century, Mosul in the Jazira was also an important centre of textile manufacture,229 as is again attested by words still current in European languages: muslin, mousseline, muselina, and mussolina. It has not yet, however, been possible to isolate this type of fabric from among those that have come down to us.

Among the textiles being produced in contemporary Syria under the rule of the Ayyubids, one [397] - the decoration on which bears close comparison with the figural and vegetal ornament filling the interstitial area on the fragment [252] - illustrates clearly how the tremendous displacement of artisans during the Mongol era resulting in an enforced migration from east to west contributed greatly to an eventual blending of styles. The same phenomenon is witnessed in the textile [398], probably belonging to the Rum Saljuqid sultan Kayqubad ibn Kaykhusraw (r. 1219-37). In gold on a crimson ground, two addorsed lions in roundels form the main design with the ever-popular arabesques filling the space within and between the circular frames. Once again the general layout, juxtaposed animals, and interstitial configurations betray distant Sasanian origins, but a new elegance and lightness permeate this design, which can also be found on a few extant and approximately contemporary fabrics woven in eastern Iran.230

The dearth of surviving metalwork from the later twelfth century in the central Islamic lands is partly made up for by a wealth of objects from the first half of the thirteenth century. The rise of artistic patronage under various Turkic groups including the Artuqids, Zangids and Rum Saljuqs as well as the Kurdish Ayyubids caused a sudden flowering of the local artistic tradition. This burgeoning seems to have been advanced, just as in the textile industry, by an influx of refugee metalworkers from Iran, whose presence can be deduced from the nisba of one of them,231 as well as from stylistic evidence.

Proof that Artuqid metalworking centres specialized in casting is abundant from the material extant. A large copper alloy talismanic mirror made in the mid-thirteenth century for Artuq Shah, a member of that dynasty, is adorned on its flat back with an heraldic bird in high relief in the centre and a long princely inscription framing its outer edge [399]. The intermediary space bears two interconnected decorative bands, one with twelve contiguous interlaced roundels each ornamented with a zodiacal sign with its planetary lord, and the other with a second inscription interrupted by 'classical' busts of the seven planetary gods. This dependence upon classical or Byzantine prototypes and emphasis on propitious heavenly bodies is reflected also in contemporary copper coins issued in the Jazira and helps to define the iconographic preferences in that area.232

Another category of cast metal objects for which the Jazira is known during this period is that of copper alloy door fittings. Although purely utilitarian in nature, both their bold yet intricate arabesque designs [400] - often on many levels and thus a tour de force of the caster's art - and the sinuous yet realistic fantastic animal forms are not only paradigms of Jaziran style and iconography but also illustrative of how that area in general and Mosul with its great wealth in particular served as a bridge between Iraq and Syria and thence to Anatolia under the Saljuqs of Rum.233

Not only did the metalworking centres under the artistic patronage of various Turkic dynasties cast outstanding works in copper alloys, they worked in other metals as well [401]. This mirror is cast in steel and inlaid with gold. It incorporates decorative motifs and stylistic conventions we encountered earlier in this section and shall continue to see on many other media produced in this area.234

The metalworkers in this region also lavished great care on the musical instruments they crafted such as the large drum [402]. This was probably part of the issue of a military band accompanying an Artuqid ruler into battle or on ceremonial occasions. The principal decoration on this rare survival consists of a playful animated angular inscription that incorporates both human and dragon heads, the latter very similar in style to those on the door handles from the Ulu Cami in Jazira ibn Umar (modern Cizre) referred to above.235

On a totally different scale are the gilded silver belt fittings [403]. These elements originally adorned a type of flexible belt from which were suspended short straps, also bearing fittings, that had been popular in pre-Islamic Iran and continued in use in early and medieval Islamic times until it was largely superseded around 1400 by a new type that remained in vogue for centuries to come. Such ornaments and another, slightly later and datable, group give us a tantalizing glimpse of the splendour of personal adornment in the Jazira and Syria during this period.236

Belonging to the tradition that created these fine groups of fittings is the particularly splendid gilded copper alloy mosque lamp known from its inscription to have been made at Konya in 1280-81 [404].237 On its body are graceful arabesques in repoussé, a technique rare on copper alloy objects of this period. The principal decoration on the neck is a Quranic passage from the Sura of Light, 24:35238 referring to the ineffable presence of the deity himself, in the form of a glass lamp suspended in a niche or arch. The entire surface of the Konya lamp is pierced to allow light to shine forth from a glass container within, casting intricate and beautiful shadows. Three bulls' heads serve to attach the (now lost) suspension chains.

As regards this area's important metal objects inlaid with silver, the earliest dated example from the Jazira is a miniature box of 1220. Production of such pieces, however, must have begun around the turn of the century, for the maker of the dated container, Isma'il ibn Ward, was a pupil of an already practising master called Ibrahim ibn Mawaliya.239 Both artisans ended their signatures with the generic 'al-Mawsili', 'of Mosul' - a designation used on at least twenty-eight objects240 (one from as late as 1321) by twenty metalworkers - thus implying metal production in that city; but only one craftsman, Shuja' Ibn Man'a, stated specifically that he made his object, a ewer, in Mosul in 1232 [405]; a second named Damascus, and five others Cairo. In other instances names of the owners suggest that Mosul itself was not the city of origin. Indeed, only six pieces, besides the one by Shuja', can be said with certainty to have come from Mosul, for they were ordered by the local ruler Badr al-Din Lu'lu' (r. 1237-59) or by members of his court.241 Many Mawsili artists worked in styles quite different from those attested by these six pieces, and in the work of one single artist there are stylistic differences that may imply various locales.242 This pattern reveals how difficult it is to make attributions of metal objects from this period when historical inscriptions are lacking.

There are, however, certain features that do distinguish the metalwork of the Jazira, including that of Mosul, from contemporary Iranian production. First, representations of princes, still rather rare in Iran, are frequent, which is only natural in view of the high percentage of pieces known to have been ordered by royal patrons. Indeed, the princely theme is the keynote of these works, and in certain cases it is developed into an all-encompassing royal ambiance. On the other hand, genre scenes extend well beyond the stock Iranian motifs of revellers, hunters, and polo players, and their composition is more sophisticated. Their variety is astonishing as well: gardeners with spades and mattocks, peasants ploughing with pairs of oxen, a flute-playing shepherd in the shade of a tree surrounded by his flock and faithful dog, boys shooting at birds with blowpipes, a relaxed youth reclining on a couch with his cupbearer and sommelier in attendance, a noble lady admiring herself in a mirror while a servant girl stands by with a box of toiletries, and so on [406, 407].243 Even the more formal royal images are set outdoors and are connected with merrymaking and hunting. Like the ceramic decorators of Iran, the rich repertory of the Mosul metalworkers often shows an indebtedness to the inventiveness of manuscript illustrators. The fundamental importance of the painting styles of Iraq, the Jazira, and Syria in this period as sources of imagery for the art of the object can be observed again and again, even though it is not always possible to distinguish the style of one specific area from that of another (see discussion of manuscript painting, below). Finally, the shapes themselves show greater variety.

More surprising still is the novel organization of themes. Whereas parallel bands, unfolding without interruption, and differently shaped spaces filled with closely packed motifs of equal importance, are typical of Iranian work, in the Jazira they were replaced by sequences of vignettes, some of them relatively large, some small. Avoiding a sampler-like display of individual motifs, the craftsmen organized vessel surfaces by connecting the frames around the images and by using smaller ornaments as links. In addition the vessels are encircled at various levels by bands that tie the compositions together. Furthermore, to prevent monotony, the even flow of main elements is punctuated at intervals by secondary motifs. Even the spaces between the vignettes have an artistic function. Instead of being left undecorated and thus neutral, as on Iranian works, they are covered with delicate webs of arabesques or interlocking fret patterns based on swastikas or Ts,244 which lend tension to the surfaces and serve as foils for the main features. By these means the monophonic co-ordination of equal parts has been replaced by a polyphonic form, of graded subordination, in which the many different parts of a complex composition are made to interact and interrelate. As a result both aesthetic and intellectual requirements are fully satisfied. No wonder, then, that metalworkers of Mosul origin were in demand in the highest places everywhere: their works 'were exported to kings', according to a contemporary Spanish Muslim,245 and that is why they signed their products with the name of the town from which they hailed.

We have seen above how Mawsili artists migrated to other major cities outside the Jazira including Damascus. Thus, it is not surprising that the distinction between Jaziran and Syrian inlaid pieces is often hard to draw.246 The stylistic differences are more subtle and the borrowings more wholesale than, for example, those between Persia and Jaziran work. The complex 'polyphonic style' of the latter continued, including the fretted backgrounds, but in Syria the work was in general drier and more meticulous; representations such as throne scenes became more formal and the arabesque spirals in the background more pronounced. Nevertheless, the short Ayyubid period (1171-1250) is commemorated by some remarkable and varied pieces of inlaid metalwork, often with novel features. Foremost among them is the use of Christian motifs, including New Testament scenes and, within arcading, figures of ecclesiastics and saints testifying to the relationship between the Latin states and the Ayyubids or to the presence of Christians in high positions at the Sunni Muslim court. One example is the so-called Arenberg Basin made for the Ayyubid Sultan of Cairo and Damascus al-Malik al-Salih Ayyub (r. 1239-49) [408].247 Another fine example of the type is the anonymous canteen in the same collection which, like the basin, combines Christian subjects with scenes depicting mounted horsemen including Crusader knights.248 Another feature that makes its debut in Syria is gold inlay, which was used on a basin made in 1250 by another Mosul metalworker, Dawud ibn Salama.249

An even better aid to attribution than stylistic and iconographic clues, however, are inscriptions, which give the dates and original - usually royal - owners of many distinguished objects. The earliest inlaid piece with an Ayyubid association, a ewer made in 1232 by Qasim ibn 'Ali of Mawsili origin,250 has a unique decorative scheme that would be difficult to place without the evidence of the inscription. Both body and neck are covered, not with the usual figural designs, but exclusively with fine arabesques enclosed in a network of ovoid compartments - the first occurrence of the all-over, purely abstract vegetal patterns on metalwork which was to be more common in subsequent periods.

Mosul, like Sinjar and Takrit, was renowned at this time also for its large unglazed water jars called habbs, the ornamentation of which attained a particularly high artistic level in response to the demands of affluent consumers. Unglazed pottery household vessels account for a high percentage of the total ceramic output of the Islamic world during the period covered by this volume. However, most of this large production was not as ambitious as, and considerably less refined than, the profusely and finely decorated ewer [90] and the habbs being discussed here. Because of their basically utilitarian function - liquids stored in them were kept cool by the evaporation that occurred through their porous walls - these storage jars were popular for centuries, their antecedents predating the arrival of Islam in the area and their descendants continuing in use down to the modern period. All their surfaces except for the rounded bottoms (which were set into the ground or placed on stands) are covered with relief decoration, adroit combinations of moulded, incised, carved, pierced, and barbotine work - a technique in which rolled strips and circles of clay were applied to the surface and, sometimes, decorated [409].241 The motifs constitute a fascinating potpourri of ancient gods and their sacred animals juxtaposed with the latest images of princes, musicians, revellers, and court officials. The popularity of such designs throughout the whole central Islamic area during the medieval period is witnessed by the fact that they can be found on so many different media in Iraq, the Jazira, Syria, and Anatolia at this time - exhibiting the very same style as on the unglazed habbs. The now destroyed Gate of the Talisman in Baghdad, stone architectural elements from the Jazira [426], a gateway in the Aleppo citadel [375], and wooden doors from Anatolia [424] - to mention only a few examples - testify to the veracity of this statement.252

The beautiful arabesque decoration on the cut brick from the Mustansiriya in Baghdad [410], founded in 1233 and discussed earlier in this chapter, is a testament to the continuation in Iraq of this striking style up to the end of the Abbasid period. As was the case with the figural and animal designs, such vegetal motifs also seem to have had universal appeal in the central Islamic lands at this time and can be seen in the Jazira [400] and Ayyubid Syria [411] as well as in contemporary Saljuqid Anatolia [423].

Turning now to the glazed pottery produced in these areas during this period, it appears that we have two parallel and interconnected ceramic traditions. One was located in an as yet unknown Syrian production centre253 and the other most probably in or near the Anatolian city of Konya. As regards Ayyubid Syria, the production of lustre-painted ceramics was most probably a continuation of and a further development upon the earlier so-called Tell Minis ware [322] - the first pottery produced in that country to be decorated in this technique. It is generally assumed that the art of lustre-painting on pottery entered the repertoire of the Syrian potters from Egypt, brought by migrating ceramists during the decline of the Fatimid dynasty in the latter half of its hegemony. The basin [411] is a paradigm of Ayyubid Syrian lustre-painted pottery, bearing as it does the characteristic chocolate-brown lustre combined with underglaze-painted blue, the organization (with its abundant metal prototypes) of the various calligraphic, geometric, and vegetal designs into a series of concentric bands interrupted by medallions; and a background of tightly coiled spirals reminiscent of engraved or chased scrolls on contemporary metalwork as well. The shape of this particular vessel and of other lustre-painted objects from this centre also echoes those in metal.254 Another, considerably less common, variety of Syrian pottery in this technique is represented here by the jar [412]. Unlike the other various Ayyubid pottery types discussed whose centre of production has not yet been isolated, both of the cursive inscriptions on this storage vessel bear witness to the fact that Damascus was producing exquisite lustre-painted ware in the thirteenth century, stating that it was made for Asad al-Iskandarani by a certain Yusuf in that city. The principal decoration on this vessel is a bold angular calligraphic design in lustre on a deep cobalt-blue ground.255

Such a design was also popular on carved and monochrome glazed or glazed and lustre-painted vases from Syria.256 The decorative technique employed on the latter ware must have developed from the incised so-called Tell Minis ware, which, in turn, owed a great debt to the monochrome sgraffiato ware so popular in Egypt during the Fatimid period [327]. The same Syrian kilns must also have produced the moulded and monochrome glazed objects among which we find shapes borrowed from other media, such as the low triangular, square, rectangular, and octagonal tables with relief decoration or ornamentation derived from turned wooden originals. Other examples are pierced mosque lamps imitating metal prototypes.257

Another technique employed in Syria at this time was that of underglaze painting, either in black under a clear colourless or turquoise-blue glaze [413] or a variety in which red, black, and blue designs were painted under a clear colourless glaze.258 Derived from calligraphy, the decoration on this bowl, so popular at the time, bears close comparison to that on the lustre-painted vase made in Damascus [412]. Lustre-painted as well as monochrome and polychrome underglaze-painted pottery was likewise produced in or near Konya. As was the case with their architecture, the Saljuqs of Rum also emulated their Syrian neighbours vis-à-vis their ceramic production and, consequently, some of it exhibits the strong Ayyubid influence.

Structures that stand to this day in central Anatolia as well as those revealed during excavations attest to the Saljuq fondness for covering the walls of their buildings with tiles arranged in geometric patterns. The hexagonal grouping [414] which probably came from the palace of Qilich Arslan II (r. 1156-92) at Konya exhibits the technical and iconographical influence of Syrian objects in the star-shaped underglaze-painted tile with the sphinx and the technical influence of Persian mina'i ware on both types of the four-sided tiles [272]. The tiles [415] belong to those from a somewhat later royal residence, Kubadabad on Lake Beysehir, founded by 'Ala' al-Din Kayqubad I in 1227. Both types of lustre-painted tiles comprising the panel betray their dependence on the so-called Tell Minis variety of Syrian pottery [322] vis-à-vis the iconography and style employed as well as the convention of incising details through the lustre and lustre-painting on to a coloured ground. As regards the underglaze painted tiles from this complex seen comprising the panel [416], on the other hand, both the examples painted in black under a transparent turquoise glaze and those polychrome-painted under a clear colourless glaze are definitely related to those Syrian productions represented here [413].259 All of these examples point to the fact that the building tiles in Anatolia were produced with the help of imported or migrant craftsmen.

Tiles were not the only objects produced in these central Anatolian kilns; bowls, and perhaps other objects as well, were manufactured in both underglaze-painted varieties and with lustre-painted decoration.260

It would seem, therefore, that while the unknown centre or centres in northern Syria mentioned above were producing pottery that developed to a large extent from that manufactured in Egypt during the Fatimid period, the main influences on the ceramic production of contemporary Anatolia appear to have come both from Iran and from Syria. The Mongol invasion forced artisans working in the former country to seek new patrons. It is well documented that some of them found their way to Anatolia, and thus the possibility of Persian potters influencing Anatolian production in general is quite plausible. For example, we know - concerning ceramic architectural decoration - that a master potter from Tus in Khurasan was working in Konya. The building providing this information is the Sircali madrasa, in the central Anatolian Saljuq capital, founded in 1242; it is the earliest surviving dated example in the Islamic world of a total surface decorated with glazed tiling [417]. It may therefore be assumed that such colourful assemblages were already known in eastern Iran.261 As regards the influence from Syria on Anatolian production, the seeming interdependence discernible in so many instances has not yet been fully explored. Although there was most definitely an international vogue for certain types of pottery in this period, for the most part that produced in the various areas can be easily differentiated by such elements as style, iconography, and profile.

The Fatimid tradition of lustre-painting on glass exemplified by the diminutive vessel [334]262 appears to have led directly into gilded and/or enamel-painted decoration on the surface of the glass vessel. The earliest datable gilded object is the fragmentary vessel [418] bearing an inscription containing the laqab of 'Imad al-Din Zangi, Atabeg of Mosul and Aleppo (r. 1127-46).263 Its figural ornamentation bridges the gap between that found on objects of the Fatimid and that of the late Ayyubid and early Mamluk periods. This flask was probably made in Syria, as were the three earliest datable enamel-painted glass objects, a beaker bearing the name of sultan Sanjar Shah (r. 1180-1209),266 the flask in the name of the last Ayyubid ruler of Damascus and Aleppo, al-Malik al-Nasir II Salah al-Din Yusuf (r. 1237-59), and the dish [419] with the names and titles of Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw II (r. 1237-46), the son of the imperial founder of Kubadabad in central Anatolia. The design on the outer wall of the dish in particular clearly shows an indebtedness to the decoration on lustre-painted objects, as it is drawn from the same repertoire.

The gilded and enamelled tazza [420] exhibits both techniques combined in a masterful, yet tentative, manner bearing an abundance of gilding and the almost experimental application of enamel colours in a highly varied palette (red, blue, yellow, green, white, and black). The style, scale, and rich decorative vocabulary of designs (including entertainers, geometric patterns, arabesques, virtual bestiaries of both real and fantastic animals, and secular inscriptions) displayed in the horizontal bands of varying widths are typically found on various media from the first half of the thirteenth century. However, it is in metalwork that the closest parallels are encountered.

Tapering beakers with outward-curving rims were the most popular shape for enamelled and gilded glass at this time. However, other characteristic forms include rosewater sprinklers (Arabic qumqum) with tall tapering necks, straight-sided mugs, and basins. The production of enamelled and gilded mosque lamps with high, wide, flaring necks also began during the period under discussion here, reaching its peak in the fourteenth century.

The popularity of enamelled glass among the Frankish invaders of the Holy Land is attested not only by fragmentary vessels found in the ruins of their chateaux and by objects brought back for deposit in European churches but also by the fact that this deluxe technique is one the Franks seem to have copied from the Muslims while they were in Syria: an example of this is the beaker in the British Museum signed by Magister Aldrevandin.267

Unquestionably such glass products also greatly influenced those of Venice, the foremost European glass-manufacturing centre - especially those from the formative years of its industry. The mystique of these vessels continued to enthrall the West long after the Middle Ages, as is evident from Ludwig Uhland's poem 'Das Glück von Edenhall' and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's English version of it.268 The 'Luck of Edenhall' was shattered; but fortunately the enamelled Syrian beaker that inspired the poems exists today in perfect condition.269

Another decorative technique, known as marvering and combing, which appears to have been very popular for ornamenting glass especially during the Ayyubid period, has a long pre-Islamic history in the area; its ultimate origins lie in Egyptian core-formed vessels of the Eighteenth Dynasty. This type of decoration was executed by winding a thread of contrasting colour around the object and subsequently marvering, or pressing the thread into the surface by rolling the vessel on a flat stone slab. A comblike tool was then utilized to create the feather-like design. The beautiful lidded bowl [421], executed in red glass with opaque white threads, is unique for the type, being the only container so ornamented that still retains its original lid.270 We know from the Cairo Geniza documents that red (manganese-coloured) glass was a specialty of Beirut. As the provenance of the Metropolitan Museum object is reported to have been nearby Sidon, Greater Syria (and perhaps even Beirut itself) can be suggested as the place of manufacture. Its shape is echoed in both the underglaze-painted and the underglaze- and lustre-painted pottery associated with this area as well.271

Many outstanding carved wooden objects are extant or known from the central Islamic lands during this period.

One of the chief production centres seems to have been Aleppo, where several masters signed their works, and we know of at least one son following his father in making mosque furniture - a parallel to the family of potters producing mihrab tiles in Kashan.272

Using dated examples as our guideposts, we can follow the craft from its archaizing phase - exemplified by a maqsura dated 1104 - to an austere, almost abstract style found on a minbar of the Zangid ruler Nur al-Din Mahmud (r. 1146-74), dated 1163 and partially preserved in the Great Mosque at Hama, Syria. The latter is an appropriate reflection of the age of Islamic scholasticism, dominated by this puritan, even ascetic ruler, who devoted his life to waging 'war against the enemies of his faith', as he claimed in his minbar inscription, and to leading the jihad against the Crusaders.

The dated maqsura, or screen, probably intended as an enclosure for a tomb in a cemetery at Damascus,273 clearly reflects the pivotal position of Syria. By incorporating both certain principles of the abstract Style C of Samarra with elements met with on Fatimid wooden pieces, Syria's function as a bridge between the East (particularly Iraq and the Jazira), on the one hand, and Egypt and the western Islamic lands, on the other, can be clearly discerned.274 The minbar of Nur al-Din, which was crafted sixty years later than the screen, was also executed to some extent in the purely linear Style C; other sections, however, were deeply carved to produce a carefully planned lacework of spiralling, bifurcating, and intersecting stems, all of the same width. In their clarity and formality these coiling stems, which produce few leaves or flowers, are remote from natural forms. They cross and recross the arched configuration of the fillet 'which is no longer a boundary but a melody running through a fugue'. This apt description emphasizes the innate musical quality of the design.275 The closest stylistic parallels are the carvings on a stone mihrab in Mosul executed by a Baghdadi artist during the reign in al-Jazira of Nur al-Din's brother Sayf al-Din Ghazi (r. 1146-49). A more developed version of the same type can be seen on a wooden door of 1209 donated by the reigning caliph al-Nasir (r. 1180-1225) to a sanctuary in Samarra.276

The most important example of the wood-carvers' art crafted in the central Islamic lands during this time, however, was the (now destroyed) minbar Nur al-Din ordered forthe Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, begun in 1168 but not finished until 1174, after the donor's death [422]. The minbar was to be a thank-offering for the reconquest of the holy city, which Nur al-Din did not live to see; in the meantime it was kept in the Great Mosque at Aleppo, the city where three carvers had produced it under the guidance of a master 'unequalled in the perfection of his art', in the words of the historian Abu Shama (1203-68). After Jerusalem was finally taken in 1187, Nur al-Din's successor as leader of the jihad, the famous Salah al-Din (Saladin), placed the minbar in its destined home.277

It is clear that this style could hardly have been developed further. A pair of wooden doors dated 1219 in the citadel of Aleppo reflects a different tendency, namely towards geometric configurations related to those developed in Egypt after the middle of the twelfth century. Nevertheless, the Syrian craftsman's mastery is still amazing, however, and the composition of eleven-pointed stars interlaced with twelve- and ten-pointed stars has been described as an 'almost unsolvable problem' and the 'most complicated design ever produced by that branch of art'.278

The wood-carvers' art is also beautifully represented in Saljuq Anatolia. An outstanding example is the folding wooden Qur'an stand (Turkish rahle) made, according to its elegant cursive inscriptions, in 1279 for the tomb of the mystic poet and saint Jalal al-Din Rumi in Konya [423].279 The four outer surfaces, all originally painted and gilded, are each carved with a rhythmic arabesque composition which exhibits an indebtedness to earlier Artuqid vegetal designs [400]. On the two upper surfaces is a twice-repeated design - executed in gold, black, red, and blue of a doubleheaded bird of prey on a field of arabesque scrolls inhabited by fourteen lions. On three similarly decorated doors - one from the Haci Hasan Mosque in Ankara,280 another from the public soup kitchen (Turkish imaret) of Ibrahim Bey in Karaman and the third now in the Museum für Islamische Kunst in Berlin from an unknown building [424],281 the basic repertory of arabesques and inscriptions is enriched by an infinite repeat pattern in the large central medallion; in addition, despite the religious and public settings of the doors, there are bold representations of confronted lions and addorsed griffins, as well as of paired dragons and frontally oriented human figures that are also highly reminiscent of decorative motifs seen or mentioned earlier in both Iraq and the Jazira.

The Early Islamic vogue for adorning the interior walls of palaces or private homes with either moulded or carved stucco decoration which we have discussed as regards Abbasid Samarra and Samanid Nishapur continued in the subsequent period and seems to have been particularly popular in Anatolia during the reign of the Saljuqs of Rum. The example of this art [425] was excavated in Kubadabad on Lake Beysehir, where it formed part of a wall of recessed cupboards not unlike that found in Samarra [83]. The buildings in this complex (the summer palace of Ala al-Din Kayqubad - r. 1219-37) when newly completed must have been quite dazzling with their minutely decorated stucco panels and colourful lustre- and underglaze-painted tile assemblages [415, 416]. The style exhibited here, especially of the peacocks, as well as on other stucco panels from this residence and from contemporary palaces and pavilions in Konya, is related to that used for the animals, birds, and human figures depicted on the unglazed ceramic water storage jars (habbs) made in the Jazira [409] - a direct line of influence we have been able to follow here on objects in many media other than stucco.282

The fashion for ornamenting buildings in Iraq and the Jazira with figural decoration has already been mentioned, and the stone niche from the latter area [426] is a striking example of this vogue. Although it incorporates the shape as well as the design layout that is typical for mihrabs from this area, the array of courtiers depicted in many of the interconnected niches of this architectural element preclude its use as the focal point of a qibla wall and another function, perhaps that of a fountain or a throne niche,283 must be sought. It is the tradition of figural architectural adornment not only in the Jazira but also in Iraq that helped give rise to the Rum Saljuqid proclivity for ornamenting the walls of their palaces and private residences with such decoration in various media. The stucco cupboard and the wooden doors discussed above and the stone relief [427], with a winged and crowned figure moving spiritedly to its left - one of many such reliefs in the citadel in Konya itself - are only a few examples of this prevalent vogue.284

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