Early Ottoman Art: The Legacy of the Emirates

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 The apogee of Soliman’s reign has for a long time obscured the various seminal disruptions brought into Anatolia by the precursors of the empire. Amongst these were the first Turkish emirates who took advantage of an ebbing Byzantine empire in order to establish themselves in the peninsula. The Ottoman dynasty would of course have the most celebrated destiny, but the architectural, artistic, intellectual, social and economic supremacy which, together with territorial expansion, would take the empire to its zenith, has also resulted in the radical initiatives undertaken by the emirates to reach the highest levels of sophistication in art and architecture. Having inherited a Seljuq Anatolia, itself heiress of Persian, Syrian and Iraqi influences and trustee of the major Christian builders in the Near-East, the emirates deliberately imprinted their seal in every region which had not yet been in contact with Turkish-Islamic culture, through continuous attempts at artistic, cultural and social innovations. This methodical enterprise that was undertaken over the 14th and 15th centuries resulted in a true cohesion<br> which contributed to the empire apogee of the 16th century. <br>This MWNF Exhibition Trail, therefore, aims to highlight the<br> immeasurable technical prowess which, applied in practice <br>on Anatolian soil, would lead to the culmination of the varied <br>typology of mosque designs: the ‘monumental unified <br>mosque’, for example with its central cupola; the architectural<br> style known to have become the glory of the Ottoman empire. <br>The effervescent inventiveness seen in the cultural and <br>political centres Milas, Selçuk, Birgi, Manisa, Bursa, Iznik, <br>Çanakkale and Edirne, is revealed in the <i>madrasa</i>s, and<br> monumental tombs and the secular buildings, <br><i>hammam</i>s or <i>caravanserai</i>s, where a melting pot<br> teeming with cross-influences yields, finally, a coherent and <br>totally authentic creative style and a basis for the later art of <br>the Ottoman empire.
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Museum With No Frontiers, MWNF (Museum Ohne Grenzen)
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Jun 1, 2013
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Architecture / General
Art / General
History / General
Travel / General
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Portugal is a terrain particularly propitious for salutary re-evaluations in order that some highly damaging clichés may be challenged. In the Iberian Peninsula, for instance, the first major rupture of civilisation took place, not in the eighth century – a period which is traditionally spoken about as one of major Arab ‘invasions’ – but definitely during the Christian Reconquest in the southern lands, with the introduction of the first foreign garrisons and a new social order. Indeed, contrary to the mythology, it is precisely because of the formidable development of maritime routes that had already opened the region to the exchange of goods and ideas that the Muslim civilisation did not have to impose itself by the sword. Instead, passively, Islamic culture moved into the local practices and modes of living. Furthermore, during the eighth and thirteenth centuries, and bearing in mind that the region was quite some distance from the political centres of Cordoba and Seville, it was not subject to major religious or palatine programmes and the recurring flowering of regional autonomy was a concept immediately embraced by the native<br> population. Five centuries of Muslim presence have left no spectacular traces, but in the handling of<br> volume, in the techniques of construction, in the additional functional or decorative <br>pieces in common architecture, the Andalusian symbiosis remains deeply engraved in<br> the legacy. Without it, one could not explain the sixteenth-century explosion of <br>Mudéjar decoration, or that of Manuelin art, or the Gothic of Alentejo where audacious<br> vaults combine with delicate framing and skilful polychrome finishes of the <br><i>Azulejo</i>. This ‘Moorish’ legacy however can also be perceived today in rich <br>mosaics and in the plaintive sound of the popular choirs of Alentejo. It can be seen in<br> the contained tracery of Coimbra weaves and in the skilful ornamentation of Redondo<br> ceramics. It informs the design of gardens, in the flavour of an <i>escabeche</i>, <br>and has informed literature in the legend of the Enchanted Moorish Maiden.
 Tunisia offers a synoptic and chronological vision spanning thirteen centuries of Islamic History. After the creation of Kairouan at the rise of the Islamic era – during which time local traditions were enriched with the distant souvenir of Samarra – successive dynasties embellished the architectural language of the area with their own unique artistic expressions. The Aghlabid monuments, for example, offer the dual physiognomy of Christian art revisited by oriental craftsmanship, which was in turn inspired by the artistic language of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The ornamental innovations of the Fatimid caliphate that followed, was then a source of inspiration re-visited during the Zirid era. The long centuries of Hafside prosperity, stimulated by the arrival of exiled Andalusians, signalled the creative pinnacle of an art of symbiosis: Hispanic-Maghreb art. This successful cross-fertilisation of local austerity married with Cordoban-Umayyad splendour, would in itself promote an incredible architectural renewal until Ifriqiya became part of the Ottoman Empire. Tunis <i>medina</i> is a<br> good place to witness the creation of a typically Muslim civic model, facilitating an<br> image in the mind’s eye of the luxury of daily life in the pleasure palaces of the <br>surrounding environment. Between Bizerte and Ghar el Melh, the emphasis is placed <br>on the prosperous Andalusian villages, whereas on the last promontories of the <br>Djebel Dyr, El-Kef illustrates the dual destiny, military and spiritual, of a highly <br>influential centre for Sufism. The princely towns of Raqqada and Mahdia and the <br><i>ribat</i> towns of Monastir and Sousse offer yet other manifestation of artistic <br>exuberance. Sfax, being Tunisia's true gate to the Levant and the most southern nomadic land, witnessed the <i>caravanserai</i>s (of Gafsa, Tozeur, Nefta) and the <br>troglodytic <i>ksour</i>s that offer so perfect a response to the hostility of a semi-<br>desert environment and, in contrast, the serene functionality of Jerbian architecture <br>which summarises the rigorous authenticity of insular Ibadism. Tunisia unravels each<br> of its expressions in a synchronous spiral, a revolution that encouraged the <br>continuity of previous traditions.
 From slaves to sultans, the history of the Mamluks is one of a prodigious rise to power, an epic worthy of a place alongside the most exciting of adventure novels. Palace uprisings, bloody intrigues, murders, but also a visionary organisation, an iron discipline, heroic campaigns, a fierce willpower, a keen sense of politics and diplomacy alongside commercial expansion. Little known until quite recently, the Mamluk era is possibly the most enigmatic period of Muslim Egypt, which led to Islamic supremacy in the Mediterranean at levels of splendour and prestige never before realised and never equalled since. The Mamluk sultans used architecture as a power-legitimising weapon: a demonstration of strength and stability. Making use of all available sources this Exhibition Trail provides the real backbone for the understanding of today’s Cairo and the fundamental role of the Nile in the identity of Egypt: a stimulating vision, in print for the first time, spanning three conquering, festive, scholarly and inventive centuries where the animation of grand ceremonies, organised on the occasion of the enthronement of a new sultan or at the beginning of <br>Ramadan, is witnessed. One is, therefore, intrigued and fascinated but not surprised by the <br>monumental character of the countless religious or civic buildings – palaces, mosques, <i>madrasa</i>s, <br>mausoleums, hospitals, major multifunctional centres, works of art – with which the Mamluk<br> sultans embellished their successive capitals and particularly the town of Cairo.
 Sicily was won from the Aghlabids in 827 and passed to the Fatimids in 948. The Norman Conquest of 1061 finally ousted the Muslims from the Island. Organised into three administrative <i>valla</i> – Val di Mazara, Val di Noto, Val Demone – Islamic Sicily produced singularly imaginative crafts and many religious and civic buildings, resurrecting some Byzantine canons, at times still heavily tainted with a late Antique resonance. The Norman monarchy knew how to incorporate, in an innovative and quite manifest way, the contributions of Islamic art.<br>A myriad of monuments attributed to Roger II and William II were enhanced with these elaborate symbioses. The beauty of these sometimes leave us short of adequate words to describe the magnificent palaces and pleasure houses, the luxuriant gardens, and the refined marbles and glowing mosaics produced at this time when Norman kings lived in these surroundings as emirates. Along with the Conca d'Oro, Palermo became the epicentre of the dissemination of Islamic culture on the Island and offers an eloquent introduction to all the Islamic styles of this period in its ecclesiastical and palatial buildings. The admiration felt by the Norman rulers for the masters of the<br> past is manifest in some splendid monuments such as the Tower (<i>Burj</i>) of Alfaina, the Palaces of <br>Maredolce and of Uscibene, and, in particular, in the two Pavilions of Zisa and Cuba. In the province<br>of Agrigento, several remnants of the Arab era have been preserved in the urban fabric, the <i>burj</i>s <br>and the <i>ribat</i>s. On the northern coast and in the mountainous regions of the Nebrodi (Vicari, <br>Altavilla Milicia, Caccamo, Campofelice di Roccella, Cefalù), ruins of fortresses and castles are<br> further evidence of this unique relationship. The Arab-Norman synthesis displayed a powerful <br>originality born out of three centuries (XII-XIV) of the successful integration of motifs, typologies, <br>techniques and infrastructures.
 El arte islámico en Cisjordania y Gaza explora un período durante los reinados de las dinastías ayyubíes, mamelucas y otomanas, en el cual llegaban a Palestina numerosos peregrinos y eruditos de todo el mundo musulmán. Las grandes dinastías encargaban obras maestras del arte y la arquitectura para los centros religiosos más importantes. Por atraer a los sabios más destacados, muchos centros gozaban de un prestigio considerable y promovían la difusión de un arte peculiar que sigue fascinando. Los monumentos y la arquitectura islámica de este Itinerario-Exposición reflejan claramente las conexiones entre el mecenazgo dinástico, la actividad intelectual y la rica expresión de la devoción popular, arraigada en esta tierra durante siglos. Nueve recorridos le invitan a descubrir 70 museos, monumentos y yacimientos en Jerusalén, Jericó, Nablús, Belén, Hebrón y Gaza, entre otras localidades.<br><br><br>became one of the most prestigious centres for learning in the Muslim world. The most <br>eminent erudites came to teach in the al-Asqa Mosque, men of letters whose reputation <br>spanned the whole of the Islamic world devoted themselves with passion to the art of<br> debate, exegesis and rhetoric. Hundreds of <i>madrasa</i>s were built in Jerusalem, <br>Hebron, Nablus, Gaza and Zefat, the Haram al-Sharif alone may have accommodated up<br> to 360 masters of different disciplines. These allowed for the decisive launch of Sufic<br> philosophy, while, concurrently, promoting healthy economic activity galvanised by the continuous<br> meetings of scholars and the faithful. Thousands of monumental tombs, mosques, <i>zawiya</i>s<br> and <i>caravanserai</i>s were built. To the enormous benefit of art history, these allocations, <br>which, under the Ottoman Empire, were granted as far as Asia, Europe and Africa, have also <br>guaranteed, in the long term, the upkeep and conservation of an impressive architectural heritage. It <br>is thus that in this most modest geographic area, a sumptuous heritage transforms the country into <br>an amazing architectural museum, where the entire panorama of Islamic styles is still present today.
 As early as the beginning of the eighth century, having just reached this extreme territory of the Maghreb, Moroccan Islam started to cast its eye to the other side of the Straits of Gibraltar and shortly after set foot on the Iberian Peninsula. From that time on, and for a further eight centuries the fate of both areas would be inseparable, and it is this real Hispanic-Maghreb culture that this MWNF Exhibition Trail examines, one which would feed a sophisticated and innovative artistic culture by inspiring every aspect of daily life. Fertilised by thousands of architectural and decorative styles, Andalusian art <br>places Morocco at the zenith of Islamic civilisation. From the outset (the mid-ninth century) the birth of <br>Islamic art in Morocco was placed under the omen of confrontation, for the foundation of the two great<br> Idrissid sanctuaries in Fez (the Qarawiyne and the Andalusian mosque) were the respective works of<br> Ifriqiyans (Tunisians) and Cordoban immigrants. At a later date, the Almoravids would borrow heavily <br>from Andalusian art, although it is under the Almohads that Muslim architecture would reveal in its <br>entirety a Moroccan-Andalusian symbiosis. The Merinids would perpetuate this tradition by enhancing it<br> further with new elements: their palaces, <i>madrasa</i>s and mosques exhibiting the lavish décor of <br><i>zellij</i> are considered the most accomplished expressions of Andalusian art in Morocco. From the<br> Buinaniya <i>madrasa</i> in Meknès to the Almohad ramparts of Rabat, from the Qaraouiyine library to<br> the Kasbah in Tangier, to the holy city of Chefchaouen, its porticoes of painted wood, elaborate patios<br> and minarets, Andalusian Morocco set the scene for the ‘Golden Age’ of Mediterranean history<br> suffused with an unprecedented artistic and intellectual emulation.
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On August 19, 1418, a competition concerning Florence's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore--already under construction for more than a century--was announced: "Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main Dome....shall do so before the end of the month of September." The proposed dome was regarded far and wide as all but impossible to build: not only would it be enormous, but its original and sacrosanct design shunned the flying buttresses that supported cathedrals all over Europe. The dome would literally need to be erected over thin air.

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