Art and Culture of Egypt

Art of Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid Mamluks
Art in Egypt and Syria between 1071 and 1250 is sponsored by the many forces in this period: Atabey, then Zangid Ayyubids, Francs, Byzantines. The art is then used to demonstrate its power and wealth against political opponents, particularly in times of trouble.

The period from the eleventh to the thirteenth century in the Middle East is historically complex. Syria and are subject to the Gezira scheme atabegs, governors of Seljuq Anatolia. The region is highly fragmented, whereupon play the Crusaders, while the sect of assassins is a real threat.

Zanki, a Kurdish ruler Mosul on behalf of Malik Shah, founded the dynasty and Zangid part in the conquest of Syria, took Damascus and Aleppo in 1128. At his death, his possessions are shared, and Nur ad-Din inherits his Syrian territory, he adds that Egypt, which he captured in 1164-68, without overthrowing the Fatimid dynasty, which recognized his suzerainty. Not until Salah al-Din Ayyub, better known under the name of Saladin to the Fatimid caliphate became extinct in 1171. Saladin, on the death of Nur ad-Din (1173), managed to restore a semblance of unity to the world Syro-Egyptian. To legitimize his power, he led campaigns against the franc and took the city of Jerusalem (1187). He died in 1193, giving birth to the Ayyubid dynasty, which will remain in Egypt until 1250 and a little longer in Syria, not able to maintain a real cohesion in the sultanate.

Architecture and urban

In Jezirah
The main city of Gezira which gives rise to production architecture is that of Mosul, where two conflicting influences are apparent:

* The Iran, seen in brick buildings with a taste for the effects of topography and illusionism. Epigraphy braided kufic is widely used.
* The Anatolia, which is manifested in the architecture of stone. It exhibits a beautiful equipment of the stone, a taste for the work of molding and plastic effects, and the use of small decorative niches, found in the decoration of metal. Epigraphy is then used an epigraph cursive.

In Syria
Syria, which is not normally the center of power Ayyubid, is none of sponsorship more developed than in Cairo because it is a patronage Emiral, generator buildings more ambitious than the capital but much more numerous. The Ayyubid adhering to the doctrine Shaafa'i, they do not build large mosques, but many madrasas and mausoleums.

The Citadel of Aleppo is one of the most important creations in Ayyubid military architecture, with the strengthening of the fortifications of Cairo by Saladin. Built in stone, it clearly indicates the climate of insecurity that prevailed then, and this influences Frankish. Indeed, the Syrians knew their architecture by the castles they built as Krak. The watchtowers are an example of borrowing Arab architecture window.

Another important building is the madrasa Firdaws, built between 1234 and 1237 on the orders of the regent of Aleppo. Like most Syrian madrasa, it is rather small rectangular plan organized around a central courtyard with a fountain. But the most important is its mihrab, considered a masterpiece of Islamic art. It is made in a strictly technical Republic: the Ablaq is to say the inlay strips of colored marbles, which here form grounds cusped intersecting arcs.

One could cite other madrasas of this period: the Madrasa of Nur al-Din in Damascus (1167-68), the madrasa Zahiriya Aleppo (1219) ... Despite significant differences in level, they all follow a schema almost identical, whose origin remains controversial but appears not to come from Iran, as is the case of the concept of madrasas.

The third aspect of the architecture consists of Syrian Shia shrines, such as Mashhad al-Husayn, and khanqah (houses for the Sufis), the plan is similar in most cases that of the madrasa. Many steam rooms are also compiled.

Finally, we must mention a very special building that will have no real descendants: the maristan Nur ad-Din. This is a hospital located in Damascus, built as the name indicates the order of Nur ad-Din in 1154. For Richard Ettinghausen, this is "one of the masterpieces of twelfth century made the most harmonious, with a particularly elegant facade combined with the geometry of a half-dome with a lintel muqarnas classic below.

In Egypt, the architecture focuses on Cairo. There are also many mausoleums, those considered the Abbasids "or that of Imam Shafei.

We noticed several influences:

* Syria first, through the material (from brick to stone), writing kufic, and domes painted.
* Fatimids also in the form of arcs (sharp angles), ribs radiating in niches and the work of stucco.

The madrasa of Salih Najm al-Din, built at the end of the period (1243-1250) consists of two madrasas two iwans. This is a large monument with two courts oblong connected by long corridors. Its niches and ribbed muqarnas recall the Al-Akmar, but the technical Ablaq found inside is a direct borrowing from the Syrian art.

The production of art at this time poses many problems of allocation to art historians. Not only works and artists move a lot, as and as conquests and losses, but in addition, there is virtually no work-step is to say, bearing the name of a sponsor of a city, a date ... It is not uncommon art form Fatimid Anatolia, Syria and Iraq are mixed, and the attribution of works varies.

Glass, transparent or opaque, is one of the most used materials in the manufacture of art objects. Several decoration techniques are used:

* The blowing in a fluted mold, which allows for parts to corrugated surface. In general, it is used in conjunction with other techniques.
* The glass marble is the inclusion of a net of colored glass into an object of another color (usually it is white in black or dark blue). The resulting bi-color coins or tree-or four-color for the most developed. This method was already used in ancient Egypt, and has been maintained over time.
* The gilded glass may be hot or cold. This decoration is virtually at that time, and glass enamelled and gilded it is preferred.
* The glass enamel is the real novelty of the twelfth century. Colored enamels are placed on its surface to form patterns. Often, the room is also decorated with gold (touch, hot or cold). The iconography of such scenery is diverse: the cup of Charlemagne, preserved in Chartres, has a mosaic of small droplets of blue enamel, white and red, while arabesques painted on the door of happiness Edenhall the Victoria and Albert Museum of London. There are also frequently decorated animals or characters, as evidenced by the cup riders of the Louvre. This technique, which continued among the Mamluks, will be copied by Venetian glassmakers.

Some forms are recurring, including:

* The flared cups, all with a double base. The upper one is curved, it is the mark of the tool used during the blowing and circular plates is reported that the cup can stand. The double bottom is characteristic of Islamic cups.

* The sprinklers are the bottles globular and neck or long ending in a mouth very close. In fact, used to store perfume, their tiny opening allowed not to lose a drop of the precious liquid.

* The long-necked bottles are also frequent, and often decorated with enamel scenes highly developed. In upper part, a glass ring to retrieve drops escaped.

* The open forms (bowls, cups) are rare but exist nevertheless. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in particular, retains a magnificent bowl on pedestal, blown in a fluted mold, glazed and golden.

We find many of these works in European collections including the treasures of churches, as many were brought by the Crusaders, especially as some have Christian iconography, either because their sponsor was a Christian, either because the artisan him himself was a Christian (as paradoxical as it may seem, the Islamic world is now majority Muslim during the thirteenth century, the Copts, Nestorians and other Eastern Christians form a majority of the population). Often these objects are handles made of gold or silver mountings Gothic when they are in Europe since the Middle Ages.

Ceramics undergoing a major breakthrough in this period with the development of high-fired colors (black, blue, red iron and rarely green) painted under glaze. These are generally poorly preserved due to high soil salinity Syria. One can still note that potters like to play with, instead of smearing their full part glaze, they let it flow and form large drops on the foot of the work. Generally, pasta is not engobeas.

In the scenery, there is some fancy decorative taste for plant motifs and diagonals, which give vigor and dynamism. The checkerboard patterns and costumes stripes are common, just as animals and characters that take on a calligraphic, or give rise to arabesques.

Some large groups may be reported:

* The group of Tell Minis.

It is called the production of ceramics open forms (bowls, cups) to siliceous paste decorated with metallic luster. In general, the decorative motif is an animal or a person of great size on a background of arabesques slender plant, but it also faces geometrical designs and calligraphy. In general, the piece is covered with a clear glaze that highlights the white pulp, but glazes cobalt blue and turquoise are also used.

This group derives its name from a Syrian site on which many of these objects were found and are now within the David Collection, Copenhagen. However, no oven has been unearthed at this place, so it seems that Tell Minis was not a place of production but a cache. An important problem arises: where these parts were they made? Some have argued Syria, but the strong resemblance to the parts production ceases Fatimid may also suggest to Egypt. It could even be Egyptian potters who emigrated to Syria ...

Another looming question relating to the date of filing of this group. Indeed, no piece is dated. In general, however, art historians are agreed to place it in 1150, using the results of archaeological and stylistic comparisons.

Anyway, this group forms an excellent example for marking the difficulties of attribution and the movement of works and artists in this period.

* Ceramic Lakabi

Few things make up this series, which uses a complex technique, delicate to implement. The lakabi are siliceous ceramic paste comprising the frit (crushed glass), a dough extremely hard, difficult work. To decorate, use the technique champleve, that is to say that we dig into the batter grounds. One student then thin partitions of land around these grounds, which is filled with glaze of different colors, they do not fuse together with the presence of walls.

The masterpiece of this series is a dish preserved in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, where the scenery comes down to a heraldic eagle position. The Louvre also keeps a shard the sphinx made in this technique.

* The raised bosses

High sculpture of forty centimeters, round bumps ceramic serving mouths of fountains. They are usually decorated with colored glazes blue or turquoise. They take the form of animals (rooster tail with dragon heads and sphinxes of the David Collection, Copenhagen) or characters (knight defending himself against a dragon, National Museum of Damascus).

Key area for the production of metals embedded, is the Gezira, and mostly the city of Mosul, where there Badr al-Din. Many artists sign by adding at the end of their name the word al-Mawsili, "Mosul", even if they are not always originate. Damascus and Aleppo perhaps are also centers of metal production.

For its decor, art metal is often inlaid with gold and silver, which highlights the black paste, creating a polychromatic. The iconography is strongly inspired by the book arts.

The first piece of metal inlay made out of the Iranian world and the ewer dated is Blacas in the British Museum, which bears the words al-Mawsili and date of 1232. Against a backdrop of "T" are nested one figured epigraphy (mixed letters and figurative elements) and several scenes, hunting scenes, character with a mirror, scene of Allegiance, etc..

David Collection in Copenhagen also retains a large desk made by Ali ibn Yahya al-Mawsili in 1255-56 which has more than forty different scenes and a beautiful inscriptions.

At the Louvre, there is the Barberini vase, made for Salah al-Din Ayyub II (reigned 1237-1260), which provides a prominent place in epigraphy. Hunting scenes also stand out against a background of foliate scrolls.

Read also Pyramids of Egypt


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