A 17th century copy of Saʻdi’s collected works from the British Library Blog

The Persian writer and poet Musliḥ al-Dīn Saʻdī of Shiraz (ca.1210-1291 or 1292) are without a doubt one of the best-known and most skilful writers of classical Persian literature. With an established reputation even during his lifetime, his works have been select reading for royal princes and ʻset textsʼ for more humble students of Persian the world over. It is hardly surprising then that a corresponding number of deluxe copies survive of his works. A previous post (What were the Mughals’ favourite books?) described some copies of his best known works, the Būstān (ʻFragrant Gardenʼ or ʻOrchardʼ) and the Gulistān (ʻRose Gardenʼ), in the Library’s collection. Another sumptuous manuscript, which has also been digitised, is an early 17th century copy of his Kullīyāt (ʻCollected Worksʼ)IO Islamic 843 which was completed in 1034 (1624/25) by Maḥmūd, a scribe of Shiraz (al-kātib al-Shīrāzī), during the reign of Shah ʻAbbas (r. 1588-1629).

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Very little is known about the poet’s life. Born in Shiraz, Saʻdī left his hometown to study in Baghdad. After a period of study at the Nizamiyah Madrasah, Baghdad, he set off on travels that lasted over thirty years. His experiences and adventures found their way into his writings, including being a prisoner of the Crusaders in Syria, visiting Kashgar, and killing a temple priest at Somnath in India. Many of these tales, however, have been proved to be anecdotal rather than biographical. Saʻdī returned to Shiraz in 1257, already a widely recognised poet and completed his two most famous works: the Būstān in 1257 and the Gulistān in 1258. These two works of poetry and prose respectively, contain anecdotes from the life of the author, moral teachings, and advice for rulers. Many stories communicate elements of Sufi teachings through their dervish protagonists. Other works reflect the changing political situation in Shiraz. Several of his poems are dedicated to the Salghurid dynasty, which ruled in Fars from 1148 to 1282, while later works are addressed to their successors the Mongols and their administrators.

More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2017/04/a-17th-century-copy-of-sa%CA%BBdis-collected-works-io-islamic-843.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

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Heirloom Tech: The Ancient Pixels of Banna’i Brickwork by Goli Mohammadi from Make

Long before the first digital pixel, architects and builders were using bricks and tiles to create pixelated patterns on structures. The technique, which is still in use today, is known as banna’i and was developed in the Middle East in the 8th century. The brick, as a building material, dates back to around 7500 BC in the upper Tigris area and Anatolia. To display text in banna’i, artisans employ mostly the Kufi calligraphic style, known for transforming the traditionally curved lines of Arabic into straight lines and sharp angles, alternating glazed and bare bricks to write out prayers (like fancy bitmap fonts) or replicate geometric patterns.

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More: http://makezine.com/2016/12/09/heirloom-tech-ancient-pixels-bannai-brickwork/

From Islamic sculpture to contemporary Delhi: A visual history of Buraq, the Quran’s winged horse by Yasmine Seale from Scroll.In

The many representations of the enigmatic steed that carried Prophet Muhammad on his night journey to heaven.

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More: http://scroll.in/article/817896/from-islamic-sculpture-to-contemporary-delhi-a-visual-history-of-buraq-the-qurans-winged-horse

Divination, Geomancy, and the Supernatural in Islamic Art by Allison Meier From Hyperallergic

Over 100 rare objects from the 12th to 20th centuries are used to explore the role of the supernatural in Islamic Art at the Ashmoleon Museum in Oxford.

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Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural continues at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology (Beaumont Street, Oxfordm England) at the University of Oxford through January 15, 2017.powerprotection04-720x960powerprotection05-720x475powerprotection07-720x541powerprotection09-720x635powerprotection10-720x1080powerprotection12-720x541powerprotection13-440x618powerprotection15-720x577

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More: http://hyperallergic.com/335152/islamic-art-and-the-supernatural-ashmolean-museum/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=11%20Art-Related%20Movies%20and%20Shows%20to%20Watch%20on%20Netflix%20Instant&utm_content=11%20Art-Related%20Movies%20and%20Shows%20to%20Watch%20on%20Netflix%20Instant+CID_5330fcda8e695cf400426ef2f15699f7&utm_source=HyperallergicNewsletter

Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights from the British Library Blog

To celebrate our new series of South Asian seminars and especially the focus on food with Neha Vermani’s talk this evening Mughals on the menu: A probe into the culinary world of the Mughal eliteI thought I would write about our most ʻfoodyʼ Persian manuscript, the only surviving copy of the Niʻmatnāmah-i Nāṣirshāhī (Nasir Shah’s Book of Delights) written for Sultan Ghiyas al-Din Khilji (r.1469-1500) and completed by his son Nasir al-Din Shah (r.1500-1510). We are planning to digitise this manuscript in the near future but meanwhile I hope some of these recipes will whet your appetite.

 

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/11/nasir-shahs-book-of-delights.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

The Ottoman Turkish Zenanname (ʻBook of Womenʼ) – British Library Blog

Today’s post is from guest contributor and regular visitor to Asian and African Collections, Sunil Sharma, Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature at Boston University

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British Library Or.7094 is an illustrated copy of the late Ottoman Turkish poetic work, Fazıl Enderunlu’s Zenanname (ʻBook of Womenʼ), which describes the positive and negative qualities of the women of the world along with satirical and moralistic parts at the end. The text is a poem in mesnevi form that was completed in 1793. I became interested in this work because typologies of women began to appear in Mughal and Safavid poetry and painting in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and there was the possibility of doing comparative scholarship across Persianate cultures.

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More: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2016/11/the-ottoman-turkish-zenanname-book-of-women.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+asian-and-african+%28Asia+and+Africa%29

The Mosaics of Khirbat al-Mafjar

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2016 Calendar: Mosaics

  • November/December 2015 PDF
    • Introductions by Hamdan Taha, Donald Whitcomb and Paul Lunde
    • Video by George Azar / The Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of Palestine

A few kilometers north of Jericho, at more than 12,000 years old one of the oldest cities in the world, lie the ruins of a palace with the largest and most artistically accomplished mosaic floor to survive from the ancient world. Composed of 38 intricate panels covering a space over 30 by 30 meters square, the mosaics of the audience hall and bath at Khirbat al-Mafjar (“Ruins of Flowing Waters”; also called “Qasr Hisham” or “Hisham’s Palace”) are masterpieces of early Islamic artistic design.

Dating from the first half of the eighth century, the time of the Umayyad caliphate, about a century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the patterns are mostly abstract, but a few use pictorial elements. Drawing from both Byzantine and Sasanian (Persian) traditions, the artists at Khirbat al-Mafjar created a new, exuberant esthetic of intricate geometric and floral motifs. Many are based on infinitely repeatable patterns, a technique that later came to be characteristic of geometric art across the Islamic world; others are based on textile arts and fresco painting.

Until recently, few of these patterns had been published. In 2010 the Palestinian Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage uncovered, cleaned and assessed the state of conservation of these mosaics. The floor was comprehensively photographed for the first time. A small museum opened last year, in partnership with the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

The ruins at Khirbat al-Mafjar were discovered in 1894 and first excavated in the 1930s and ’40s by the Palestinian Department of Antiquities under Dimitri Baramki and Robert Hamilton. Baramki identified the patron of the site as Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, who ruled from 724 until 743 ce. This elaborate complex stood for only a few years, however, until the audience hall and bath were largely ruined by an earthquake in 131 ah (748 or 749 ce). In the 1950s and ’60s, further archeological work and some restoration were carried out under Jordanian rule, but the site was abandoned under Israeli occupation from 1967 to 1994. Beginning in 1996 the Palestinian Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage revived conservation and archeological efforts.

In addition to the audience hall, Khirbat al-Mafjar included within its 60-hectare complex a large, two-story palace, a multi-room bath, a mosque, a monumental fountain, a perimeter wall and residences. It served as an occasional winter residence for the caliph, and it was part of an array of such palaces (qusur) throughout Syria, Jordan and Palestine that served variously as caravan stations, royal or elite residences, trading posts and security outposts. Like Khirbat al-Mafjar, many developed irrigation systems that allowed them to continue as agricultural estates.

Among its ruins, the audience hall and bath of Khirbat al-Mafjar is the best-preserved and the most striking monument. The exterior walls have 11 semicircular mosaic-tiled apses (or exedra); these half-domed structures echo the interior’s larger and higher domes supported by 16 massive piers. This structure is unique for late Byzantine and early Islamic architecture. The walls and apses were richly covered with carved stone and stucco panels—the earliest known use of stucco in the region—and there may well have been panels of glass mosaics as well.

While the earliest examples of mosaics found in the Jericho region date to the Hellenistic, early Roman and Byzantine periods, the art of mosaic flourished particularly during the Umayyad period. Some of the finest Umayyad wall mosaics, sometimes made of glass tesserae, survive in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Great Mosque in Damascus. Khirbat al-Mafjar shows that the mosaic tradition continued with white mosaic paving into the subsequent Abbasid and Fatimid periods.

The entire floor of the audience hall is paved with colored mosaics. The carpets—as the floor panels are called—divide the hall into circular and rectangular spaces that appear to reflect the architectural superstructure, especially the majestic circular carpet under the central dome. It is likely that the hall served several purposes, from an audience or reception area (majlis) to a room for social events, including musical performances, to an extravagant frigidarium, or cool room, attached to the smaller heated rooms of the bath along its north wall.

Although many Umayyad mosaics are now known in the region, none surpass the mastery of art and craft at Khirbat al-Mafjar. Here, brilliant colors were woven into common motifs to fuse into a new fashion, one that was complemented by no-less-intricate wall coverings of colored stone and stucco carvings in paneled surfaces, columns and other architectural elements; above, there is evidence of painted frescos on upper floors.

When photography, film and conservation studies of the floor were completed, the mosaics were covered with Geotextile and sand for conservation until a permanent, protective shelter can be built over them. Meanwhile, excavations and research continue at other places in the Khirbat al-Mafjar complex. It is hoped that with suitable protection and conservation, the mosaics may one day be uncovered for public viewing, making Khirbat al-Mafjar a prime destination for tourists and historians.

http://www.jerichomafjarproject.org

More: http://www.aramcoworld.com/en-US/Articles/November-2015/2016-Calendar-Mosaics