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THE HUMAN FIGURE IN ISLAMIC ART

June 15, 2018 Comments off

The David Collection

THE HUMAN FIGURE IN ISLAMIC ART, The David Collection, Copenhagen
davidmus.dk

This issue has always interested and puzzled me.

There is still uncertainty with regard to attitudes about figurative art in Islamic culture. This exhibit in Denmark – now closed – tackled the delicate issue, together with a great catalogue. An article in May 2018 ASIAN ART by JULIET HIGHET and titled THE HUMAN FIGURE IN ISLAMIC ART explains what we know and what we do not know about figurative art. She reports that there is no explicit passage in the Qur’an forbidding figurative depictions of humans. It is the written traditions that are more critical on this subject; and three dimensional portrayals seem to be more objectionable than paintings because sculptures and reliefs express a greater reality of a divinely created world. We find human figures in paintings and we find and we see the Prophet’s partially hidden face together with his winged steed Buraq – often – with a female face. So what are we to believe? It might help to keep in perspective the world of politics during the early times of Islam, the Islamic revolt against Christian Byzantine symbolism, and the influence of Persian portraiture painters. Great art patrons like Akhbar and his son Jahangir and his grandson Shah Jahan all encouraged local and imported artists in their own traditions portraying more human figures. And it helped me to keep in mind that religious art and human figures in churches and temples played a great public role whereas figurative art in Islamic art was often developed for and in the private realm.

The author Juliet Highet is a writer, journalist and photographer who writes and publishes on a wide range of Arab, South Asian, East Asian and African cultures. One of her books is: Frankincense: Oman’s Gift to the World. Got to order this one….

Cheers,
Elisabeth

human figure in islamic art

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THE VANISHING STEPWELL OF INDIA

Water -harvesting system below ground………thousands of years old…….

The book THE VANISHING STEPWELL OF INDIA, by Vitoria Lautman, foreword by Divay Gupta, Merrell Publisher explores
75 subterranean wells throughout India. Stepwells serve a number of purposes in addition to providing a community with water – – they were civic centers, active places for worship as well as refuges from the challenging climate. Each successive subterranean level often was with beautiful Hindu and islamic influenced architectural pavilions providing shade. During the 19th century it is estimated that several thousands of stepwells were in operation. Over time they silted up and were filled in but recently an effort has started to reactivate and de-silt step wells to once again collect water.

Cheers,
Elisabeth
vanishing stepwell of india

Empress Cixi of China

February 27, 2018 Leave a comment

Somebody asked me about a book about Empress Cixi of China (1835-1908); Cixi had huge obstacles to overcome; she is much maligned but this 2013 biography by Jung Chang EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI, THE CONCUBINE WHO LAUNCHED MODERN CHINA paints a somewhat different picture.

Empress Cixi of China

THE SOUTHERN GATES OF ARABIA, A JOURNEY IN THE HADHRAMAUT

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment

southern gates of arabia

I seem to turn more and more to adventure, travel and explorer books- for the body, the mind and the soul.

FREYA STARK

by Caroline Moorehead
1985

THE SOUTHERN GATES OF ARABIA, A JOURNEY IN THE HADHRAMAUT

by Freya Stark with introduction by Jane Fletcher
1936/2001

The two books by and about Freya Stark born in Paris 1893 I am reading again. Freya Stark fearlessly traveled alone to Persia, Iraq, sailed down the Red Sea following the ancient frankincense trail, and followed in the steps of Alexander the Great. She was an explorer, a historian, an archeologist and a writer in between working in places like Baghdad and sleeping in the tents of Bedouins. She was made Dame of the British Empire in 1972.

Where should we go next?

Cheers,

Elisabeth

 

More books about global trade……

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment

silk trade

SILK, PORCELAIN AND LACQUER: CHINA AND JAPAN AND THEIR TRADE WITH WESTERN EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD, 1500-1644.

By Teresa Canepa, London 2016.

Global trade via trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific networks satisfying the demand for luxury goods, creating profitable opportunities for Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English merchants. The book explains that Chinese porcelains and silk was produced and shipped in great quantities whereas practically all Japanese lacquer traded by the Europeans was made to order. The book is said to be exceptionally well illustrated.

Cheers,

Elisabeth

 

A PORTRAIT OF THE HINDUS

February 17, 2018 Leave a comment

BALTHAZAR SOLVYNS & THE EUROPEAN IMAGE OF INDIA 1760-1824

by ROBERT L. HARDGRAVE, Jr.

portrait of hindus

Austin, Texas, August 2003
Oxford University Press

Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr. is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin. A specialist in the domestic and international politics of South Asia, he taught at UT in the departments of Government and Asian Studies from 1967 until his retirement in 2001.

My fault that I have never heard about the Flemish artist François Balthazar Solvyns (1760-1824) who arrived in Calcutta in 1794 and lived there until 1803.

He painted oil paintings and made drawings and then etchings. He portrays figures of many different occupations over 100 years before the “Company School” paintings of the 19th century.

The book is very scholarly written, – I cannot read more than a few pages at a time -the book has many black/white and color prints and these alone are very entertaining and informative. I have to return the book to the UT library and will have to buy it soon soon because the price seems to be going up!

Cheers,

Elisabeth

 

Swann Galleries’ Early Printed Books Auction

Central Asian travel books exceeded expectations at Swann Galleries’ Spring Early Printed Books Auction.

unnamed

Sir Marc Aurel Stein, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, first edition, Oxford, 1921. Sold April 12, 2016 for $18,750. (Pre-sale estimate $6,000 to $9,000).

New interest in the adventures of the Silk Road during the late 19th and early 20th century sparked these extraordinary prices.  I am aware that Sir Aurel Stein also removed a collection of books and manuscripts from the famous Dunhuang caves……..  And some of us are still waiting to go…..especially to the Taklamakan desert — if only briefly!

Cheers,

Elisabeth and Natasha