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Number 6 June 2012

ISLAMIC ART HISTORIOGRAPHY

Guest edited by Moya Carey (V&A) and Margaret S. Graves (Indiana University)

Contents

Introduction

Moya Carey and Margaret S. Graves, ‘Introduction: Historiography of Islamic art and architecture, 2012’            6-MCG/1

Prologue

Avinoam Shalem, ‘What do we mean when we say “Islamic art”? A plea for a critical rewriting of the history of the arts of Islam’   6-AS/1

Scholars and showmen

Zeynep Simavi, ‘Mehmet Ağa-Oğlu and the formation of the field of Islamic art in the United States’       6-ZS/1

Robert Hillenbrand, ‘Oleg Grabar: the scholarly legacy’       6-RH/1

Yuka Kadoi, ‘Arthur Upham Pope and his “research methods in Muhammadan art”: Persian carpets’        6-YK/1

Connoisseurs, collectors and consumers

Keelan Overton, ‘A history of Ottoman art history through the private database of Edwin Binney, 3rd’   6-KO/1

Amanda Phillips, ‘The historiography of Ottoman velvets, 2011-1572: scholars, craftsmen, consumers’     6-AP/1

Christiane Gruber, ‘Questioning the “classical” in Persian painting: models and problems of definition’    6-CG/1

The recorded object: collating the canon

Eva Troelenberg, ‘Regarding the exhibition: the Munich exhibition Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art (1910) and its scholarly position’       6-ET/1

Lara Eggleton, ‘History in the making: the ornament of the Alhambra and the past-facing present’            6-LE/1

Hussein Keshani, ‘Towards digital Islamic art history’          6-HK/1

The limits of Islamic art history

Nasser Rabbat, ‘What is Islamic architecture anyway?’         6-NR/1

Mariam Rosser-Owen, ‘Mediterraneanism: how to incorporate Islamic art into an emerging field’  6-MRO/1

Margaret S. Graves, ‘Feeling uncomfortable in the nineteenth century’        6-MSG/1

Wendy Shaw, ‘The Islam in Islamic art history: secularism and public discourse’    6-WS/1

Translation

Fatima Quraishi, ‘Asar-ul-Sanadid: a nineteenth-century history of Delhi’   6-FQ/1

Documents

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, ‘The Mirage of Islamic Art: Reflections on an Unwieldy Field’, The Art Bulletin, 85(1), 2003. Reproduced by permission of the authors and the College Art Association.  6-SSB/1

Robert Hillenbrand, ‘Studying Islamic Architecture: Challenges and Perspectives’, Architectural History, 46, 2003. Reproduced by permission of the author and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.      6-RH/2

Finbarr Barry Flood, ‘From the Prophet to Postmodernism? New World Orders and the End of Islamic Art’, in Elizabeth Mansfield, ed., Making Art History: A Changing Discipline and its Institutions, London and New York: Routledge, 2007. Reproduced by permission of the author and publishers.  6-FBF/1

Gülru Necipoğlu, ‘The Concept of Islamic Art: Inherited Discourses and New Approaches’, in Benoît Junod, Georges Khalil, Stefan Weber and Gerhard Wolf, eds, Islamic Art and the Museum, London: Saqi, 2012. Reproduced by permission of the author and publishers.       6-GN/1

Abstracts

Introduction

Moya Carey and Margaret S. Graves, ‘Introduction: Historiography of Islamic art and architecture, 2012’            6-MCG/1

Prologue

Avinoam Shalem, ‘What do we mean when we say “Islamic art”? A plea for a critical rewriting of the history of the arts of Islam’   6-AS/1

Abstract: This essay seeks to open discussion on the history of Islamic art and artistic production within the critical framework of colonial and postcolonial studies; and, at the same time, to contribute to the ongoing discourse surrounding the creation and definition of the term ‘Islamic art history’ as a scientific field within the wider discipline of art history. Arguing for the urgent need for a large-scale and methodical critical reconsideration of the field, the article exposes and explores a number of problematic paradigms that have been embedded in the field of Islamic art history from the period of its founding, many of them springing directly from the ‘imagined Islam’ that remains the field’s point of definition. The imposition of universalism, cosmopolitanism and medievalism upon Islamic art, the persistent models of Classicism and degeneracy, and anxieties relating to terminology and the ‘spiritualization’ of Islam are among the key concepts questioned, with the ultimate aim of generating new pathways for research into the visual culture of the Islamic world.

Keywords: Islamic art history; Orientalism; Edward Said; Hegel; ‘Unity in Diversity’; Eurocentrism; modernity

Scholars and showmen

Zeynep Simavi, ‘Mehmet Ağa-Oğlu and the formation of the field of Islamic art in the United States’       6-ZS/1

Abstract: The historiography of Islamic art has been the topic of several recent publications. While these studies have outlined the biographies and contributions of some of the prominent figures that shaped the field, there is still more assessment that needs to be done. One of the names often included in the discussions but never explored in depth is that of Mehmet Ağa-Oğlu (1896-1949), the first professor of Islamic art in the United States and the founder of the journal Ars Islamica. This article discusses the career of Ağa-Oğlu both in the United States and elsewhere, followed by a description of his unpublished work, the Corpus of Islamic Metalwork, which is housed in the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, in Washington DC.

Keywords:MehmetAğa-Oğlu; Corpus of Islamic Metalwork; Islamic art at Detroit Institute of Arts; the Research Seminary in Islamic Art; Ars Islamica; Historiography of Islamic Art in the United States

Robert Hillenbrand, ‘Oleg Grabar: the scholarly legacy’       6-RH/1

Abstract: After surveying the various necrologies and events celebrating the life and achievements of Oleg Grabar, the article reflects in a general sense on why his death has unleashed such a flood of memories, using Grabar’s own assessment of his work as a tool. The paper then underlines his extraordinary range and attempts to identify his special skills: his intellectual curiosity that drove him to pose questions rather than dictate answers; his openness to new theoretical and technological ideas and techniques; and his habit of thinking outside the box, a skill he made very much his own and that he did not learn from his teachers. His lack of professional jealousy and of the deformities that attend over-specialization were alike noteworthy. The paper then discusses his books in detail, especially The Formation of Islamic Art and The Mediation of Ornament, his acknowledged masterpieces which had wide circulation within the field and outside it. Finally, the paper anthologizes the comments of his students and colleagues on this remarkable and lovable man.

Keywords: Oleg Grabar; Formation; Ornament; teaching; student; language; Islamic art

Yuka Kadoi, ‘Arthur Upham Pope and his “research methods in Muhammadan art”: Persian carpets’        6-YK/1

Abstract: This paper looks at the emergence of Persian carpet scholarship in the early twentieth century, and the formative role played by Arthur Upham Pope, one of the American pioneers of Iranian art studies and collecting. By examining the background to his article published in the Art Bulletin in 1925, the paper considers how Persian carpets were incorporated into Islamic art-historical discourse in the early twentieth century.

Keywords: Carpets; Iran; Persian art; Oriental rugs; Arthur Upham Pope; 1925

Connoisseurs, collectors and consumers

Keelan Overton, ‘A history of Ottoman art history through the private database of Edwin Binney, 3rd’   6-KO/1

Abstract: This article examines one of the United States’ greatest art collectors of the mid-twentieth century, Edwin Binney, 3rd (1925–86); specifically, his collection of Ottoman art, which is now divided between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Harvard University Art Museums. The most accessible windows into Binney’s world of Ottoman art history and collecting are his four exhibition catalogues on the subject, which accompanied shows held in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. This public legacy is complemented by Binney’s private thoughts on Ottoman art, which he meticulously recorded on the pages of three notebooks now preserved at LACMA. Using Binney’s refreshingly transparent and detailed notes as a primary source, this article traces the development of his Ottoman collection over the course of three decades. In doing so, it introduces the international world of Islamic art collecting c. 1958-84 and raises larger questions pertaining to the formation of collections and canons.

Keywords: Edwin Binney 3rd,; Ottoman; Turkish; painting; collecting; Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Amanda Phillips, ‘The historiography of Ottoman velvets, 2011-1572: scholars, craftsmen, consumers’     6-AP/1

Abstract:This article seeks to provide an overview of the historiography of a specific type of Ottoman silk velvet upholstery fabric, which was produced in large quantities during the years between 1580 and 1750. These textiles, which belong to the category of ‘industrial’ arts and survive in qualities ranging from high to rather low, have been neglected by scholarship because they do not fit neatly within existing art historical paradigms for this period, most of which emphasize the art of the court. This paper looks from the present state of research back to the late sixteenth century, emphasizing the way in which the people most directly involved with the textiles – the weavers – discussed them, and uses their concerns to suggest a way forward.

Keywords: Ottoman; Islamic; textiles; silk; consumption

Christiane Gruber, ‘Questioning the “classical” in Persian painting: models and problems of definition’    6-CG/1

Abstract: In scholarship on Persian book arts, paintings have tended to be organized according to a rise-and-fall model. Within this overarching framework, the Ilkhanid period represents the birth of painting and the Qajar era its supposed decline, while Timurid and Safavid painting mark a high point for the development of pictorial arts in Iran. As a result, scholars have used the term ‘classical’ to describe both Timurid and Safavid painting. The many definitions of ‘classical’ – which alternatively engage with aesthetic criteria, time periods, numerical output, systems of patronage, artistic models, and stylistic imitations – raise a number of significant questions, however. This study highlights the problematic uses of the term in scholarship on Persian manuscript painting. Moreover, by examining a series of interrelated Ilkhanid, Timurid, and Safavid paintings of the Prophet Muhammad in particular, it seeks to explore alternative models for studying the history of Persian manuscript painting, itself too diverse and self-referential to be confined to a linear account.

Keywords:Islamic book arts; Persian painting; classic; classical; historiography of Islamic painting; images of the Prophet Muhammad

The recorded object: creating the canon

Eva Troelenberg, ‘Regarding the exhibition: the Munich exhibition Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art (1910) and its scholarly position’       6-ET/1

Abstract: During the summer of 1910, an exhibition titled Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art was held in the municipal exhibition grounds of Munich. Gathering around 3,600 objects from approximately 250 international collections, it was one of the largest events of its kind ever held and gave significant momentum to the foundation of ‘Islamic art history’ as a discipline. This paper seeks to present a general outline of the exhibition against the background of early twentieth-century cultural history. It focuses particularly on the exhibition as a temporary research institution, which not only displayed objects but also provided a scholarly environment that ultimately contributed to the creation of a modern academic canon of the arts of Islam.

Keywords: Islamic art; Sarre; Kühnel; van Berchem; Bell; Munich; masterpiece; exhibition

Lara Eggleton, ‘History in the making: the ornament of the Alhambra and the past-facing present’            6-LE/1

Abstract: This article examines the impact of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European perspectives on the development of Alhambra scholarship. An Islamic palatine fortress built near the city of Granada during the Nasrid period (1232-1492), the monument has undergone substantial transformations under Christian occupation, and through its ‘rediscovery’ by foreign visitors in the nineteenth century. The fragmentation of its surfaces through a variety of Romantic and modernizing frameworks served to dislocate its decorative forms from their historical and architectural contexts, leading many historians to discuss its designs in relation to previous periods and traditions. The pervasive view of the Nasrid period and its art as ‘past-facing’ would postpone a critical consideration of the ornament of the Alhambra on its own formal and ideological terms. Only in recent decades has this position been challenged and the monument discussed in terms of its regional specificity and its multiple periods of production and reception.

Keywords:Alhambra; Nasrid ornament; Al-Andalus; Romanticism; design reform; Owen Jones; International Exhibition

Hussein Keshani, ‘Towards digital Islamic art history’          6-HK/1

Abstract: The advent of digital humanities now poses the primary historiographical challenge for contemporary and future historians of Islamic art. No longer simply tools to archive and exchange information, digital humanities technologies are evolving into analytical instruments often embedded with under-scrutinized theoretical assumptions. Without a critical mass of systematically developed databases of historical texts, translations, images and overlaying analytical tools, the way Islamic art history is written will increasingly diverge from the rest of art history. This paper makes the case that the pressing need to consider and apply new theoretical frameworks in Islamic art history is being superseded by the digital turn in humanities scholarship. The practice of Islamic art history now needs to actively participate in the design and development of databases and analytical instruments specifically geared toward the interests of Islamic art historians. At the same time, the digital shift presents an opportunity to confront the field’s archival legacies.

Keywords: digital humanities; Islamic art history; historiography; database; computational analysis; cultural analytics

The limits of Islamic art history

Nasser Rabbat, ‘What is Islamic architecture anyway?’         6-NR/1

Abstract: This article offers a critical review of scholarship on Islamic architecture in the last two centuries. It raises methodological and historiographical questions about the field’s formation, development, and historical and theoretical contours through a discussion of the positions of its main figures. One question treated here is that of how to study a culturally defined architectural tradition like Islamic architecture without reducing it to essential and timeless categories. Another question is that of how one is to critique the dominant Western paradigm without turning away from its comparative perspective. But the most important goal of the article is to reclaim the assumed temporal boundaries of Islamic architecture – Late Antiquity as a predecessor and modernism as a successor – as constitutive forces in its evolution and definition.

Keywords: colonialism; Orientalism; art history; neo-styles; modernism; postmodernism; Islamic architecture

Mariam Rosser-Owen, ‘Mediterraneanism: how to incorporate Islamic art into an emerging field’  6-MRO/1

Abstract:This essay discusses the emergence over the last decade of a new field of Mediterranean studies. In reaction to the polemical publication of Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell’s great study of Mediterranean history, The Corrupting Sea, in 2000, medieval historians in Europe and America have since formed research clusters and organized a huge number of conferences, all seeking to redirect the study of this complex region. Traditionally studied in region-specific and hermetically-sealed academic disciplines, ‘Mediterraneanism’ seeks to explore cultural interactions and interconnections between the peoples of the Mediterranean in an impartial and pan-regionalist way. This essay asks what advantages this newly-emerging frame of enquiry offers to students of the art of the Islamic West, and suggests some avenues which might prove fruitful. One significant advantage of this model is the proper integration of the material culture of Islamic North Africa into the study of art in the Islamic West, a development that is long overdue.

Keywords:historiography; Mediterranean studies; The Corrupting Sea; Islamic art; Iberia; Italy; Sicily; North Africa

Margaret S. Graves, ‘Feeling uncomfortable in the nineteenth century’        6-MSG/1

Abstract: The historical excision of the nineteenth century from the master-narrative of Islamic art history has had a number of far-reaching consequences. This essay takes an overview of the current status of nineteenth-century materials in the overarching story of Islamic art, analyzing the aspects of the century’s artistic production that have started to be tentatively admitted to the canon in recent years, and attempting to find some answers to the obvious question: what is so wrong with the nineteenth century? In the second part of the study taxonomic and ethnographic concerns, encoded into the discipline during its formation in the nineteenth century, are explored to expose the intellectual underpinnings, and inadvertent consequences, of the medievalization of Islamic art.

Keywords: nineteenth century; medievalization; revival styles; Occidentalizing art; Qajar painting; Johannes Fabian; master-narrative of Islamic art; ethnography; post-Enlightenment taxonomy

Wendy Shaw, ‘The Islam in Islamic art history: secularism and public discourse’    6-WS/1

Abstract: Despite the apparent affiliation between religion and art implied in the nomenclature ‘Islamic art history,’ the field has to date relied primarily on secular methodologies. This has limited the potential not only to engage actively in the real-world function of art exhibitions as cultural mediators, but also to use Islamic art to rethink understandings of both the religion and art itself. Instead, this essay argues, the field should engage with a broadened understanding of Islamic discourse as expressed through the interplay of the visual arts with mutually intertwined philosophical, poetic, and religious discourses. In so doing, the discipline of Islamic art history has the potential to enrich the public understanding not only of Islamic art as an aesthetic phenomenon, but also as an expression of aspects of Islam that are often excluded from both ‘Orientalist’ and Islamist approaches to the religion. This essay argues for a more nuanced understanding of ‘Islam’ within Islamic art studies, questioning the binary divide between culture and religion, the exclusions created through ethnocentrism and nationalism, the presentation of Islam as a historical rather than a living faith, and the use of Islam as a trope of heritage rather than as one of a panoply of conceptual frameworks for the modern and contemporary art of cultures that are informed to varying extents by Islam.

Keywords:Islam; art history; secularism; fundamentalism; critical theory; exhibition

Translation

Fatima Quraishi, ‘Asar-ul-Sanadid: a nineteenth-century history of Delhi’   6-FQ/1

Abstract : In 1847 the Muslim educationist Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) published an Urdu text entitled Asar-ul-Sanadid, listing and describing the buildings of Delhi. On the basis of this publication, Sayyid Ahmad Khan was invited to join the Royal Asiatic Society and to write a second, improved edition (published in 1854) intended for translation into English. Unfortunately the translation was never produced. The Asar was nonetheless a landmark text in the field of Indo-Islamic architectural history, representing one of the first comprehensive surveys written on Delhi’s architecture, and a foundation for further academic inquiry into the ancient city’s architectural history. This article presents a new English translation of excerpts from the original Urdu text of the second edition, describing major monuments of Delhi architecture as examined by Sayyid Ahmad Khan in the mid-nineteenth century.

Keywords: Sayyid Ahmad Khan; Asar ul-Sanadid; architecture of Delhi; historiography of Indian architecture; Urdu

Documents

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, ‘The Mirage of Islamic Art: Reflections on an Unwieldy Field’, The Art Bulletin, 85(1), 2003. Reproduced by permission of the authors and the College Art Association.  6-SSB/1

Abstract: A survey of the definition and historiography of ‘Islamic art’ and the various approaches to studying it.

Keywords: Islamic art; Islamic architecture

Robert Hillenbrand, ‘Studying Islamic Architecture: Challenges and Perspectives’, Architectural History, 46, 2003. Reproduced by permission of the author and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.      6-RH/2

Abstract: This article examines how the study of medieval Islamic architecture is currently being practised. It explores the multiple implications of the much greater volume of scholarship devoted to Western architecture, which extend from library provision to job opportunities, from richer resources to a greater theoretical sophistication. It discusses the specific problems encountered by those who study Islamic architecture, for example the paucity of documents, the range of languages required, the near-monopoly of this subject (until recently) by Western scholars operating outside their cultural comfort zone, or the unfamiliar privileging of epigraphy and vegetal or geometric ornament rather than sculpture or painting. It highlights the glut of unpublished material available. Finally, it outlines the types of research that most urgently need doing in a context of mass tourism and rampant urban development; and the pleasures and rewards, notably the scope for original work, which the study of Islamic architecture brings in its train.

Keywords: historiography of Islamic architecture; teaching models

Finbarr Barry Flood, ‘From the Prophet to Postmodernism? New World Orders and the End of Islamic Art’, in Elizabeth Mansfield, ed., Making Art History: A Changing Discipline and its Institutions, London and New York: Routledge, 2007. Reproduced by permission of the author and publishers.  6-FBF/1

Abstract: This article addresses the peculiar fact that in most art historical surveys the narrative of Islamic art history ends around 1800 CE. It considers the roots of this idiosyncrasy and its implications for attempts to coopt or instrumentalize the objects of Islamic art in the decade after 2001 in discourses of liberalism and tolerance in which an originary Islam was contrasted with modern more ‘fundamentalist’ understandings of religious belief and practice. It explores contradictions inherent in related attempts to locate models for Muslim religious subjectivity in medieval artefacts secularized as art objects.

Keywords: museum; art canon; nineteenth century; postcolonialism; Qajar art; Modernity; Islamic art exhibitions

Gülru Necipoğlu, ‘The Concept of Islamic Art: Inherited Discourses and New Approaches’, in Benoît Junod, Georges Khalil, Stefan Weber and Gerhard Wolf, eds, Islamic Art and the Museum, London: Saqi, 2012. Reproduced by permission of the author and publishers.       6-GN/1

Abstract: The article examines the shift in the field, since the 1970s, from a predominant focus on the early period of Islamic art and architecture in the ‘central zone’ of the Fertile Crescent to a broader chronological and geographical scope. This shift has contributed, among other things, to a change of emphasis from artistic unity to variety, accompanied by an increasing diversification of concepts and approaches including dynastic, regional, media-based, textual, theoretical, critical, and historiographical inquiries. The article seeks to address the unresolved methodological tensions arising from the expanded scope of the field, along with concomitant anxieties over the fragmentation of its traditional ‘universalism’. It begins by outlining the premises of still prevalent approaches inherited from the construction of the field during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a field rooted in the entangled legacies of Orientalism, nationalism, and dilletantism. The article then reviews the statements of some scholars on the state and future of the field before turning to personal reflections on challenges posed by its expanding horizons and its relationship to the Museum.

Keywords: historiography and construction of the field of Islamic Art; inherited discourses of Orientalism; nationalism and diletantism; reflections on the state and future of the Islamic field; Pergamon Museum; layers of meaning in museum objects

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